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Multi-stakeholder effort needed against worldwide mobile phone scams

By Chriselda Gesultura

Mobile phone scams have become an increasingly aggressive and expansive global phenomenon. At its scale, stopping this largely anonymous crime of many victims needs a multi-stakeholder approach: government, law enforcement, business, consumers and other partners must work together against their common enemy: the scammers.

In 2017, the Telecommunication Standardization Sector of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU-T) recognized the growing threat that scams such as short message service (SMS) phishing pose to countries, telecoms operators and mobile phone and internet users worldwide. The ITU-T then published its Supplement on guidelines on countermeasures against short message service phishing and smishing attacks to help combat these scams and build awareness.

The ITU-T defines SMS phishing as “the attempt to acquire sensitive information such as usernames, passwords and credit card details for malicious reasons, by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication.”

Despite efforts by the United Nations’ ICT agency to control the spread of cybercrime and fraud, most countries around the world continue to struggle against these illicit practices. The situation worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic as more people shifted to online transactions.

In the United States, a report by CBS said robo-text figures have soared from about 1 billion per month in 2021 to 12 billion in June of 2022, citing data from the nonprofit Public Interest Research Group. The US Federal Trade Commission also reported that a total of $137 million was lost in 2021 from fraud connected to scam texts.

“The sheer scale of this problem requires an equally aggressive pushback by all stakeholders in the public and private sector, who sadly are all victims of these illegal acts,” said Globe Chief Information Security Officer Anton Bonifacio.

“There is a shared responsibility to put protective measures in place, increase vigilance and create more awareness,” he added.

Globe continues to encourage its customers to report spam and scam messages on its Stop Spam web portal. Android phone users are also urged to set up spam filters on their devices by following these simple steps:

  1. Download Google’s “Messages” app
  2. Set it as your default Android SMS messenger
  3. Go to Settings and enable Spam Protection.

“We reiterate our call for mobile phone users to never open or click on links from unknown numbers or engage with these messages by replying with personal information,” added Bonifacio.

Globe maintains a cybersecurity operations center that works 24/7 on monitoring breaches and setting-up the necessary filters to block suspicious sources. These include erring numbers, SIMs, and domains used in rapidly-evolving scamming methods.

The digital solutions platform has spent $20 million or roughly P1.1 billion in capital expenditures to boost its capabilities in detecting and blocking scam and spam messages of international and domestic sources, including app-to-person and person-to-person SMS.

Through these efforts, Globe was able to block 784 million scam and spam messages from January to July this year It also deactivated 14,058 scam-linked SIMs and blacklisted 8,973 others, aside from blocking 610 domains or URLs.

Globe is also helping customers better equip themselves against online scammers, and to learn about creating a safer online environment through modules accessible for free through its Digital Thumbprint Program via GlobeBridgecom.



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