SENATOR Joel Villanueva urged authorities to stop text scammers from taking advantage of the government’s roll out of ayuda to those hard-hit by the spike in prices of fuel and basic goods.
“We‘re seeing a new surge of text scams. Parang epidemic po ito, may panibagong wave. This time scammers are riding on the government’s distribution of ayuda,” Villanueva said.
Some of the text messages, he said, lure individuals to call a certain number or send an email for information on how to claim government aid such as senior pension, Bayanihan allowance, tax refunds, and others.
Villanueva said the government should take preventive measures before it begins to distribute the P500 monthly subsidy to low-income families.
“That P20 billion worth of ayuda is a dog whistle to cybercriminals. Malaking temptation po sa kanila yan,” he said.
At present, one way of protecting the public, the senator proposed, is to use the national SMS alert system for disasters in blasting “anti-budol messages.”
“Hindi po ba parang tinamaan din ng kalamidad ang isang pamilyang nawalan ng pera dahil sa text and email scams?” Villanueva said.
He said the alert system established under Republic Act No. 10639, or The Free Mobile Disaster Alerts Act, can be used to fight off “an imminent danger to the public.”
In 2021, Villanueva also filed Senate Bill No. 2460, or the proposed “Anti-Spam Act,” which would automatically “opt-out” all subscribers from receiving spam calls or texts, and require prior and explicit consent of the subscriber before receiving commercial or promotional advertisements.
Villanueva attributed text messages that offer nonexistent jobs, prizes, winnings, commissions to “recent increases in the prices of gas and food and government’s response of giving away monetary help.”
“There are some bad people out there who are taking advantage of the misery of others,” he said.
It will be recalled that after Villanueva sought government action on the surge of text scams in November, the spam messages died down after ten government agencies pooled their resources to stop it.
Among the ten agencies are the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, Department of Justice, Cybercrime Investigation and Coordinating Center, National Privacy Commission, Department of Information and Communications Technology, National Telecommunications Commission, and National Security Council.
The interagency group has vowed to set up a hub that will centralize complaints, including those filed with other agencies.
“I hope this is up and running soon, because a nation with high unemployment and digital disinformation rates would need this tripwire,” he said.