Beyond SIM registration: A multi-layered approach to combating cyber scams in the Philippines


Scam Watch Pilipinas is not surprised by the continued prevalence of scam messages despite the recent implementation of the SIM registration law in the Philippines. We had previously cautioned that this legislation would not entirely eliminate the issue of cyber scams. Even Secretary Ivan Uy of the Department of Information and Communications Technology has acknowledged in public interviews that the law is not designed to eradicate cybercriminal activities completely. Instead, the law aims to mitigate SIM-related crimes and establish a greater sense of accountability among SIM card users. With this regulation in place, the government is better positioned to pursue individuals who use SIM cards for illicit activities, as it enables more effective tracking of cybercriminal behavior.

This is a serious threat to the safety and security of Filipinos, and like any other criminal activities, it shows that the law is not enough to stop scammers. The SIM registration law was an excellent first step to combat scams, but it is not a foolproof solution. Scammers are still finding ways to circumvent the law, such as using stolen identities, registering SIM cards in other people’s names, and abusing the multiple SIM registration policy by asking people to register SIMs for them so they can use them for scams. We recommend the following actions to fight scams, such as:

1. Increasing the penalties for sending scam messages. Increasing the penalties is essential because it will make scammers think twice before sending scam messages. If the penalties are too low, then scammers may see it as a risk worth taking. However, if the penalties are high enough, scammers may be less likely to send scam messages, knowing they could face serious consequences.

2. We stand with Usec Alex Ramos, Executive Director of CICC, in his call to Filipino internet users when he said, “Do not compromise your identity by allowing cybercriminals to use you as digital money mules for illegal activities.” Many SIM cards from the scam hub were registered using legitimate identities; the CICC believes these were legally registered but sold by owners to scammers.

3. Working with telecom companies to improve fraud detection and prevention measures. Telecom companies have a lot of customer data and can use it to identify and block scam messages. There is no specific limit on how many SIMs a person can register as long as they comply with the registration requirements and present valid identification documents. However, the Telcos could impose their own policies and guidelines on how many SIMs a person can register under their network.

4. Raising awareness among Filipinos about the dangers of scams. Many people need to be made aware of the risks of scams. They may think that they are immune to being scammed, or they may not know

how to identify a scam. By raising awareness about scams, we can help people to protect themselves from becoming victims. This is the purpose of Scam Watch Pilipinas: to educate every Juan on the dangers they face once they go online.

5. We also urge the public to be vigilant and to never give out personal information to unsolicited text messages or emails. This is important because scammers often use personal information to commit identity theft or other crimes. By being vigilant, we can help to protect ourselves from falling victim to these scams.

6. We urge banks, e-wallet services, and other financial institutions to provide dedicated human customer support for reporting scams and fraudulent activities. There have been unfortunate incidents where people watch their bank accounts get drained while they are kept on hold or subjected to elevator music.

7. Report online scams to Inter-Agency Response Center 1326 if you receive a suspicious message. This is important because it helps law enforcement to track down and prosecute scammers. By reporting scams, we can help to make it more difficult for scammers to operate.

8. In addition to these points, we propose including digital literacy and cyber hygiene as a curriculum for elementary and high school students to protect the next generation against cybercrime. We must start nurturing a cybersecurity culture and mindset for the next generation. We also strongly recommend that various sectors vulnerable to cyber fraud must undergo digital and financial literacy training, especially the OFWs, teachers, and SMEs.

It’s crucial to recognize that the fight against scams in the Philippines is not just a legislative or governmental issue; it’s a community concern that affects us all. The SIM registration law has laid the groundwork, but more is needed. Scams are a fast-evolving menace, exploiting loopholes and adapting to countermeasures with alarming speed.

The ongoing prevalence of scam messages exposes a gap in our collective shield, a vulnerability that scammers are too eager to exploit. Increased penalties might be a stronger deterrent, but the union of government action, corporate responsibility, and public vigilance will create an effective bulwark against scams.

Through joint efforts, we can aim for better laws and a more informed and cautious public, making it increasingly difficult for scammers to operate. As we advance in the digital age, our strategies to combat scams must evolve in tandem. Only through multi-layered, cooperative efforts can we hope to stem the tide of this criminal activity and ensure a safer digital space for Filipinos. Therefore, the need for immediate, collective action could not be more urgent, as each delay only grants scammers more opportunities to victimize and undermine the security of the Filipinos.



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