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Filipino MP urges crackdown on unregistered SIMs as first actionable case discovered

Filipino MP urges crackdown on unregistered SIMs as first actionable case discovered

A Filipino lawmaker who sponsored the SIM Registration Act, Sen. Grace Poe, has called on officials to begin a clampdown on all those still engaged in SIM-card related crimes such as text scams. The call comes about three weeks after a national drive for the mandatory registration of SIM cards with the national digital ID ended. It also coincides with an announcement by Department of Justice (DOJ) officials that they have unearthed an online scam facility involving 28K SIM cards, making it potentially the first criminal case to be handled by the new SIM registration law. Meanwhile, three of the country’s biggest telecoms companies which were involved in the SIM registration process have reported a drop in their subscriber base, but are bullish that the fall in figures is unlikely to negatively affect their business.

Fish out text scammers, Sen. Poe urges govt

Speaking in July, a day after the mandatory SIM card registration drive ended, the lawmaker said “the end of SIM registration signals the beginning of intensified crackdown on mobile phone scammers,” according to the Philippine News Agency (PNA).

The Senator called on the national police and other law enforcement officials to make use of the new legal instrument meant to tackle and weed out crime committed via SIM-related methods.

“It is a challenge for the law enforcers to make a sample out of the SIM Registration Law violators,” she said, assuring that the law has sufficient safeguards on users’ right to privacy.

First potential SIM-related fraud case identified

While Sen. Poe has urged government officials to show no mercy to SIM fraudsters, the DOJ has revealed that it has come across a situation which could turn out to be the first actionable case under the legislation.

As ABC-CBN News reports, Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla told reporters recently that 28,000 SIM cards were unearthed from a Philippine Offshore Gaming Operator (POGO) believed to be used for scam operations.

The official said the discovery is disquieting and they are trying to figure out whether the SIM Registration Act is applicable to the matter. He also said they’ll resolutely pursue whoever has the SIM cards registered in their name.

Remulla also disclosed that during the raid on the facility, 650 POGO staff were rounded up, but just a little over 100 of them eventually faced accusations of love and cryptocurrency scams. There are said to be foreigners among the suspected scammers.

The DOJ has also raised concerns that some of the unregistered SIM cards are used on messaging apps which are used to hoodwink victims.

Meanwhile, Rappler reports that investigators also found that some of the SIMs were registered to digital IDs while still in their packets. Officials said they were working to find out how that was possible.

Also, government has solicited support from telcos in an effort to stop these scammers from exploiting existing loopholes.

The telcos, in the meantime, have said although they suffered SIM subscriber losses after the mandatory registration exercise, that may not have any major toll on their business performance.

The three telcos — Smart, Globo and DITO — are said to have lost about 33 percent of their total subscribers, according to the National Telecommunications Commission, GMA News reports.

The drive to link SIM cards with PhilIDs ended on July 25 with about 113 million registered SIMs. It started off well before protests erupted along the line over data privacy concerns.

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