Alfred Dalizon

Gov’t must address rising number of online lending scams

June 22, 2024 Alfred P. Dalizon 156 views

I’M referring to countless cases of online and text scams that continue to pester thousands of Filipinos everyday with government agencies led by the Department of Information and Communications Technology seemingly helpless in stopping them.

I would also say that even though we already have the SIM Registration Law, it is evident that scammers have been having a field day victimizing Filipinos every day and their number has been growing by leaps and bounds.

PBBM’s vow to further strengthen the capabilities of law enforcement agencies also needs full Congress support too. Right now, the PNP’s Anti-Cybercrime Group needs to really modernize to cope up with modern technology which is improving day-by-day.

I was listening when PBBM early this month emphasized the importance of enhancing the PNP’s capabilities in combating cybercrime as he acknowledged the increasing threat posed by digital crimes.

I would say that PBBM hit the nail right on the head since the PNP specifically its Anti-Cybercrime Group now under Brigadier Gen. Ronnie Cariaga needs all the help it can get to modernize.

I’m citing as an example the ‘failure’ of the PNP-ACG to find out the person/place and other details that will help solve a viral video of an SUV driver who deliberately hit a senior citizen, said to be a stroke victim with his vehicle.

Last April 26, the Land Transportation Office sought the help of the PNP-ACG in investigating the viral video. I learned that even PNP chief, General Rommel Marbil asked the ACG to look into the matter.

Several friends from the unit told me they failed to establish where the viral video took place despite repeated efforts. Weeks passed already and there were no positive results on the matter with officials saying it is very hard to rely on mere video when it comes to investigating when and where a crime occurred. Case temporarily closed until a tipster would come out in the open to spill the beans on that incident, I was told.

I also don’t know how the ACG is helping arrest another major scam involving online lending companies that offer quick loans to Filipinos in dire need of money. In ost of the cases, the ‘victims’ would find themselves being forced to pay exorbitant interest rates under the pain of being humiliated, threatened or cursed in public by ‘company agents’ once they fail to pay on time.

Thousands have been victimized by these online lending companies although the public really has no idea on how can they stop being humiliated via text messages or calls and social media posts by these companies.

I learned that one can file a formal complaint against the lending company with the National Privacy Commission for privacy violations and the Securities and Exchange Commission or the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas if they are a regulated financial institution.

Apart from that, the public must understand that for an online lending company or platform to legally operate in the Philippines, it must be registered with the SEC. The SEC maintains a list of registered online lending platforms on its website, and borrowers can verify the legitimacy of a lender by checking this list.

However, I don’t think that an ordinary Juan or Juana dela Cruz, particularly those belonging to impoverished families would care to go to the SEC or the NPC to file a formal complaint against these companies.

I learned from a government website that the NPC is investigating at least 67 online lending apps, some of them just existing in the cloud, meaning they are unknown and thus could not be immediately banned.

A main complaint against these online lending companies is that they have illegally accessed and used mobile phonebooks of their borrowers without their consent. Using the phonebook data, the online lenders usually inform persons in the contact list they were named as co-makers or character references by borrowers.

In many cases, the innocent contacts are asked to settle the loans as they representatives illegally posted the borrowers’ personal and sensitive personal information on social media sites and make efforts to defame them for not settling their loans

Citizens’ awareness really will play a big part in addressing the problem amid the failure of our law enforcement agencies to stop this online crime. Imagine yourself getting a call from a stranger and being told that you or your brother, sister, or father or mother owe them a huge amount of money. When you ignore them, you later realize that your friends and other relatives are also getting the same call meant to humiliate you.

Some officials have told me this is a scam being perpetrated mostly by Chinese nationals involved in other illegal activities in the country. Using modern technology similar to the ones recovered from a suspected Chinese ‘spy’ by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group last month in Makati City, these modern-day criminals can easily hack on the records of many Filipinos and use them in their illicit activities.

Imagine the cases of thousands of Filipinos who borrowed P7,000 from these companies although minus interest, they will only receive P3,200 and have to pay huge interest rates under a 7-day term. Using their text blast machines, these online loan sharks have brought shame and trouble to so-many Pinoys, many of them already suffering from depression and stress.

There were also many reported cases of miscarriages and even attempted suicide among victims of these online lending sharks. I hope and pray that the government will be able to stop this scam soon.

PRAYERS FOR YEBRA FAMILY

Before I end, our deepest prayers and sympathies to the family of a friend, retired Brig. Gen. Orlando Yebra who passed away on Friday. Yebra of PNP Academy ‘Tagapagpatupad’ Class of 1992 has been a friend since his early days at the PNP Anti-Kidnapping Group.

He became known as one of the best PNP hostage negotiators who later became a director of the Eastern Police District. Yebra devoted himself to helping the poor upon retirement until his untimely death at the young age of 57. Godspeed Sir.

AUTHOR PROFILE