MANILA, Philippines — Around 28,000 Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) cards confiscated from Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGOs) in Pasay City last month were used to siphon P1 billion from the e-wallets of online fraud victims, according to the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT).
“We checked the SIM cards one by one and we accessed their e-wallets. We discovered that they contain P50,000 up to P100,000 each, and every SIM card has a fund balance in their e-wallets,” DICT Secretary Ivan John Uy said yesterday in an interview with reporters.
“The POGOs used these SIM cards to steal and load the money in their respective e-wallets. They duped people, that’s a scam. Some of them stole P5,000, some stole P20,000,” he added.
Uy challenged e-wallet operators to tighten their security as criminal groups constantly change their modus operandi.
Prior to the POGO raid in August, authorities also confiscated more than 80,000 SIM cards in a Las Piñas facility in June.
The DICT recently proposed limiting SIM ownership and imposing a registration fee for a fourth card and beyond.
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‘Worse than drugs’
Online scams are worse than the illegal drug trade, according to the Philippine Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC).
“Even in the PNP (Philippine National Police) records, there is a higher number of online crimes,” PAOCC executive director Gilbert Cruz claimed during a news briefing at Camp Crame yesterday, after being asked if scams are getting worse than the proliferation of illegal substances.
The PNP yesterday reported that 16,297 cybercrime cases were investigated by the Anti-Cybercrime Group (ACG) in 2023.
The most prevalent cybercrimes include online scams, illegal access, computer-related identity theft, automated teller machine/credit card fraud, threats, data interference, photo and video voyeurism, computer-related fraud and unjust vexation.
Cybercriminals have also exploited emerging technologies such as non-fungible tokens, cryptocurrencies and online casinos to defraud victims, according to ACG director Brig. Gen. Sidney Hernia.
Meanwhile, the National Bureau of Investigation’s Anti-Cybercrime Division arrested three suspects in Pasay and Las Piñas over the sale of registered SIM cards.
The operation resulted in the confiscation of around 1,000 registered SIM cards.
“They sold 30 different (phone) numbers to a Telegram user, they can sell the same numbers to WhatsApp,” NBI cybercrime chief Jeremy Lotoc said in a mix of Filipino and English in an interview with ABS-CBN News.
In the same news briefing at Camp Crame yesterday, an information technology expert who refused to be identified showed how easy it was to register a SIM card in the registration sites of telecommunications giants Globe Telecom and Smart Communications.
The IT expert registered two SIM cards using fake IDs with photos of animated characters: The Simpsons’ Bart Simpson and One Piece’s Monkey Luffy.
The registrations were not flagged even if the expert used fictitious names and addresses.
“The law did not mandate telcos to verify registrations. Telcos are only mandated to require from registrants a picture and a selfie,” said PAOCC senior technical adviser and liaison officer Winston John Casio.
The Cybercrime Investigation and Coordinating Center and its private partner Mozark officially launched the Consumer Application Monitoring Systems (CAMS) on Sep. 13, which will help consumers identify in real time what applications are performing well.
Private firms and government agencies that operate applications can also monitor the performance of their product and improve their services.
Consumer monitoring systems will be deployed at the National Cybercrime Hub in Bonifacio Global City and in 100 cities nationwide, according to Mozark president Dion Asencio II. — Emmanuel Tupas, Rainier Allan Ronda, Mark Ernest Villeza