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NPC probes telcos on fake jobs, investment schemes


The National Privacy Commission (NPC) has launched an investigation into whether telecommunications companies (telcos) and payment platforms exercise due diligence and accountability when dealing with data aggregators in connection with text messages offering fake jobs and investment schemes.

An interagency task force has also been formed to combat smishing and text spam.

The NPC said yesterday in a statement that it had ordered Globe Telecom Inc., Smart Communications Inc., and Dito Telecommunity Corp. to submit documents and information on their data flows and transactions involving data aggregators within five days.

The NPC also sent similar orders to the Union Bank of the Philippines and Globe Fintech Innovations Inc., which operates the mobile wallet GCash, as these are the main payment channels where victims are being directed to deposit their investments via text messages.

According to the report, the victims’ investment accounts became inaccessible after they deposited a large sum in exchange for a higher commission.

The NPC summoned data protection officers from telcos, e-commerce companies, and banks last week to discuss current and future steps to address the increase in spam text messages.

According to the NPC, data aggregators are involved in the spread of smishing activities or text messages that trick mobile users into clicking on links to malicious websites and providing sensitive information.

It went on to say that data aggregators could be legal entities hired by businesses to work with telcos to send promotions and other messages to customers.

“At the meeting with the NPC on Nov. 24, the data protection officers of Globe Telecom and Smart Communications revealed a complex chain of data aggregation and handling, involving data brokers, that is bringing new challenges to compliance and enforcement,” Privacy Commissioner Raymund Liboro said.

According to the NPC, the telcos traced the smishing and text spams back to web-hosted companies in China and India.

Globe identified data broker Macrokiosk, which was tapped by a firm called China Skyline Telecom, as the primary source of messages that “share the theme of job hiring and contain a Whatsapp contact link” in its report to the NPC.

From November 11 to November 21, this year, 1.55 million such messages were sent over Globe’s network.

The NPC is advocating for call and text attestation in order to identify the owner of the phone number used for calling or texting.

It also urged telecommunications companies to continue blocking data aggregators, as well as the numbers, domains, and internet protocol addresses that enable smishing and text spam.

An interagency group was formed last November 26 as part of efforts to combat smishing, according to the NPC.

The group also includes the Cybercrime Investigation and Coordinating Center (CICC), the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), the National Telecommunications Commission, the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the Department of Labor and Employment, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, the National Security Council, and the Anti-Money Laundering Council.

The CICC serves as the group’s lead agency, receiving complaints from mobile phone users and forwarding scammers’ phone numbers to telcos so they can be blocked.

According to the NPC, agencies such as the DOJ, DTI, DICT, and CICC have pledged to increase consumer protection efforts and pursue perpetrators of the scam.

NPC probes telcos on fake jobs, investment schemes|PhilStar

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