Philippine senate probes large-scale phishing scams

iStock [illustration]

The Philippine senate launched an investigation on Thursday to identify culprits behind large-scale phishing scams where millions of text messages have been sent to mobile users to try and steal passwords for fraudulent transactions.

The country's two biggest telecoms providers have said they blocked more than 1 billion spam and suspicious text messages between them this year. PLDT and Globe have assured their combined 156 million mobile subscribers that cybercriminals have not breached their security systems.

Senator Grace Poe, who heads the senate's public services committee, called for tighter measures against cybercriminals.

"This is a staggering number of messages that prey upon the vulnerable like those who are unemployed, in need of money or are just unfamiliar with these schemes," Poe said.

Consumers have reported a surge in phishing attempts during the pandemic as people relied heavily on mobile devices for shopping and food delivery orders and banking.

Poe said it was time for lawmakers to revive a bill, vetoed last year by then President Rodrigo Duterte, that would require SIM card buyers to register with network providers to prevent scams and misinformation. 

Phishing attacks use text messages or emails to lure users into sharing passwords or other sensitive information by inviting them to click on dubious links. There was no available data on Philippine consumers' losses from phishing.

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