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STOP ILLEGAL LISTING OF SIM CARDS

September 16, 2023 Alfred P. Dalizon 307 views

Alfred DalizonI’M saying this in the wake of an alarm raised by the Philippine National Police and the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission over continuing text scams in the country even though over 118 million subscribers have already registered their Subscriber Identification Module or SIM cards under the Mandatory SIM Card Registration Law.

What the DICT and the NTC needs here is to ensure full cooperation from all concerned telcos in addressing issues that have been raised by the PNP, the PAOCC and even the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Last Thursday, the PAOCC demonstrated to the press how SIM cards may be registered using anime names and photos as well as fictitious addresses. During the actual demonstration, an IT expert showed how easy it was to register a SIM card in the registration sites of Globe Telecom and Smart Communications.

To illustrate his point: the man registered two SIM cards using fake IDs with photos of two popular animated cartoon characters: Bart Simspon of The Simpsons and One Piece’s Monkey Luffy. He showed to all that the cartoon characters were not flagged and thus were easily registered.

A friend from the intelligence community said it is also very possible that syndicates behind the illegal registration of pre-paid SIM cards would only go to a public cemetery or a private memorial park and copy the names of all entombed people to register SIM cards.

That possibility is really not remote. My friend, PAOCC Executive Director Gilbert Cruz who supervised a recent raid on a Pasay City POGO facility-turned online scam hub said they recovered more or less 9,000 old generation iPhones and android phones, over 28,000 SIM cards as well as credit and debit cards and pages of seed phrases and suspected crypto hardware wallets and/or automatic One-Time Pine or OTP generators.

Early this year, the PNP Anti-Cybercrime Group headed by Brigadier Gen. Sydney Hernia conducted an operation in San Jose del Monte City, Bulacan which resulted in the arrest of a Taiwanese national and his two local associates for illegal possession of more than 7,000 registered SIM cards with verified accounts of various e-wallet platforms like GCash and PayPal as well as a number of e-bank accounts which they bought from unsuspecting people for at least P400 each.

The PNP-ACG also recovered more than 80,000 SIM cards in a raided online scam hub in Las Piñas City last June. Last Thursday, the PNP-CIDG headed by Maj. Gen. Bong Caramat and officers from the PAOCC arrested a 23-year old Malaysian national who yielded 150 pieces of Smart SIM cards believed being used in fraudulent online activities in the country.

The sting was launched amid several information forwarded to the PAOCC and the PNP-CIDG regarding the involvement of some foreign nationals in the unauthorized sale of pre-registered SIM cards in the country. The suspects were said to be using the random names of different personalities without their knowledge.

The SIM cards acquired by the suspect were believed being sold mostly to Chinese nationals living in the country and are being utilized in online casino betting, online banking transactions and other fraudulent online activities which really compromises the identities of the individuals whose names were illegally registered by the accused.

“We suspect that these SIM cards are being used by the syndicates to stash money first here in the country and later abroad without being easily detected,” PAOCC’s Cruz told me.

In reality, the recovery of thousands of SIM cards inside raided POGO facilities where online frauds like the so-called ‘Love Scam’ are taking place is a proof that they are being used for unlawful purposes.

This has prompted the PAOCC leadership to call for a temporary stop on the online registration of SIM cards amid their finding that the system accepts fake identities and information. Cruz, a retired police major general said they have even seized an equipment that can register up to 64 SIM cards at the same time. Worst, the equipment is being sold online.

Cruz said telcos—which for me are also known for using ‘lobby money’ to attract the support and sympathy of politicians and other concerned authorities— should ‘physically or manually’ check the information of registrants so they can remove those who submitted dummy information and go after them for violating the law.

This is timely amid a revelation by DICT Secretary Ivan John Uy that SIM cards recovered from a raided online scam hub in Pasay City were found to have been used to siphon some P1 billion from the e-wallets of online fraud victims. A record check showed that the confiscated SIM cards contain P50,000 to as much as P100,000 each with a fund balance still in their e-wallets.

Cruz said the current reality is that ‘online scams are now worse than the illegal drug trade’ citing the huge number of cybercrime complaints. Thus, he suggested the need to cross-check the authenticity of the IDs being presented by SIM card registrants.

Right now, there is really a big need for the PAOCC chaired by Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin and the PNP headed by General Benjie Acorda to talk with all concerned government agencies to address the growing concern on the illegal registration of SIM cards as well as their continued sale in the country which is being advertised in different social media sites specifically Facebook Marketplace,

The National Privacy Commission earlier warned the public against individuals who offer to buy their registered SIM cards. Reports disclosed that registered SIM cards are being brought for as much as P1,000 each.

However, the practice puts the original SIM card owners at risk as it might expose them to legal trouble when the SIM card registered in their name is used in fraudulent online activities and other high-tech scams. used for illicit activities, the NPC noted.

Everybody must also know that those who sell or transfer the ownership of their registered SIM card without following the proper procedure may be imprisoned from six months to six years, or fined P100,000 to P300,000, or both. Also, individuals who entered false details when their registered their SIM cards would face penalties such as imprisonment of six months to two years or a fine ranging from P100,000 to P300,000.

GODSPEED BOBBY BURGOS, TITO RUDY POTES

On a personal note, my family and I would like to offer our prayers for two well-loved men who passed away recently: our friend, veteran journalist Bobby Burgos and Tito Rudy Potes, a former mayor of Infanta, Quezon.

Bobby was a co-founder of the PNP Press Corps whom I replaced as PNPPC president in the early 90s. A former beer buddy, he was the 2nd PNPPC president and I was the 3rd. Before he retired and settled for good in Baguio City, he wrote for the Manila Standard and was once the Journal Group’s Baguio City bureau chief. Bobby is really known for his good English and writing style.

Tito Rudy on the other hand was a former mayor of Infanta, Quezon who settled in Lucena City. He was married to retired Dep-Ed Lucena City supervisor Gloria Palenzuela, who happened to be an aunt of my wife Candy.

Our deepest sympathies to the families of the two. Godspeed Tito Bob and Tito Rudy.

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