Freeman Cebu Business

Public warned against rampant SMS spoofing attacks

Ehda M. Dagooc - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines — The Philippine Chamber of Telecommunications Operators (PCTO) has urged mobile phone users to exercise heightened vigilance to combat the increasing threat posed by spoofed SMS (Short Message Service).

“Spoofing is a form of cybercrime that is increasingly difficult to detect. We’re urging everyone to be extra cautious with any SMS that asks for personal information or prompts to click on a link. Verify the authenticity of such messages by contacting the official customer service channels,” said Atty. Froilan Castelo, PCTO President.

Castelo, who is also Globe General Counsel, said spoofing has become a sophisticated scam and that mobile users should be vigilant in order not to be victimized.

Spoofing is a technique where fraudsters impersonate SMS channels to deceive recipients. The practice has seen a marked rise, especially in Metro Manila, with the strict implementation of SIM registration last year to combat SMS fraud.

For instance, customers have reported incidents in which messages, imitating sender IDs of telcos and banks, entice them with fraudulent links to redeem non-existent rewards, including mobile devices. Those who fall for spoofed SMS and engage with senders may unwittingly give away personal and sensitive information, giving fraudsters access to their online accounts such as social media profiles, e-wallets and banking accounts.

Telcos, banks, and financial institutions have taken proactive steps against spoofing, issuing public warnings and collaborating with partners and law enforcement agencies to apprehend the scammers.

According to Castelo, PCTO supports these measures and is actively working with all members to enhance the security and reliability of telco services across the country.

Spoofing is not unique to the Philippines but is a global concern. It is facilitated by the use of illegal equipment known as International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) catchers or fake cell towers.

These devices, which can be transported by foot or vehicle, simulate cell towers to intercept mobile communications within a certain radius, enabling them to connect to and send messages to phones within the covered area with sender IDs that imitate official accounts. This method bypasses telco networks’ spam filters, making detection and prevention particularly challenging.

The PCTO urges the public to report any suspicious message to their respective service providers and to follow best practices for digital security. This includes avoiding clicking on links from unknown sources, never sharing personal information via SMS, and regularly updating their knowledge on the latest scam tactics.

By raising awareness and promoting collective vigilance, the PCTO aims to safeguard the public against these deceptive and harmful practices, Castelo said.

During Globe’s first quarter 2024 media briefing held Wednesday, May 15, 2024, Castelo said Globe, along with industry players, expressed hope that the government could introduce stronger law enforcement measures to combat the influx of cybercriminals, including spammers or spoofers.

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