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PLDT says it engaged with scammers to know their modus

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PLDT Inc. on Thursday said its cyber-threat investigation team has interacted with text scammers to understand how their modus works and find ways to prevent them from victimizing subscribers.

“We have to engage the scammers to understand the scam,” PLDT and Smart Communications chief information security officer Angel Redoble said in an interview on CNN Philippines.

“This is not the traditional type of phishing or scamming technique. This one is interactive. There is a scammer who will ask you to send money for a commission and they keep on enticing you with higher commission,“ he said.

Recently, mobile subscribers reported receiving spam text messages from anonymous numbers recruiting them to suspicious job offers with high salaries.

Redoble explained that with its interaction with the scammers the telco found that the bigger the amount a subscriber gives, the more difficult for them to get back their money.

“Sa strategy nila ‘yung first money na ibibigay mo ibabalik nila sayo. Maglagay ka ng P200, automatically you will receive a commission of P60. So naglagay kami ng P200 pesos and true enough naging P260 and we were able to withdraw it,” he said.

(In their strategy, the first money you will give will be returned to you. If you give P200, automatically you will receive a commission of P60. So we put P200 and true enough it became P260 and we were able to withdraw it.)

The PLDT official said scammers basically get the trust of their victims first by showing them that they can earn from their scheme.

“Hanggang palaki na 'yung pera sasabihan ka na hindi ka pa pwede mag withdraw kasi sasabihan ka na kailangan mo magdagdag ng P15,000,” Redoble said.

(Until the amount grows and you will be told you can no longer withdraw the money and you will need to add P15,000 more.)

“The bigger the amount, the more difficult it is to get your money that’s how the subscribers are scammed,” he said.

The PLDT official said that during the process of engaging with the scammers, the telco was able to identify the domains used for the modus.

“They’re now blocked in our infrastructure,” Redoble said.

Smart earlier said it has blocked 400 to 500 mobile numbers daily that have been found to be related to SMS (short message service) hoax and spam, and some 40 domains and IP addresses used by online scammers from October 21 to November 20.

“On the side of Smart, we also have our own filtering so when we receive reports of spam messages then we implement a filtering capability wherein the spam messages are blocked,” he said.

However, he said fraudsters are very adaptive and are coming up with new domains after their previous ones were blocked.

For his part, National Telecommunications Commission deputy commissioner Edgardo Cabarios advised subscribers not to click the links sent by anonymous senders and not respond with them.

“‘Pag hindi kilala magsuspetsa ka na. That suspicion ‘wag mo ibalewala ‘yan,” Cabarios said.

The NTC official said the agency already ordered telcos to blast messages warning their subscribers about the proliferation of spam text messages.

Cabarios said such warnings increase the awareness of subscribers about scams which could decrease their chances of falling victim to schemes.

Redoble noted that November posted the highest number of spams or phishing activities in PLDT’s monitoring.

Cabarios said the increase in spam messages this month could be attributed to the downgrading of alert level in the National Capital Region as people might think that since more businesses are reopening, job opportunities are also opening.

The NTC official said scammers are taking advantage of the situation wherein people are looking for employment opportunities after several months of limited economic activities.—Ted Cordero/AOL, GMA News

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