The corona virus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic is a once in a lifetime  tragedy that has killed and sickened millions, caused businesses to close down and workers to lose their jobs. 

Even more tragic is how many people are taking advantage of people’s despair and grief by trying to scam them of the very little resources they have left. 

 I received this text message, for instance:  “You have won US$250,000.00 relief fund. For details and claim, contact this email: quoting your REFERENCE NUMBER: NARF/WA46/678427″ A little over a week later, probably because I ignored the first message, they upped the ante and sent me this: “You have won Us$320,000.00 relief found. For clarification and claim, contact this email: quoting your Reference Number: NVD/N31/29221” 

Is this why many complained that they did not receive the ayuda because it was being raffled off instead of distributed? And why in dollars? 

There have been reports of strangers claiming to represent credit card issuers and telling card holders their credit limits would be raised but the caller would need their card details and personal information. Those give the information find out later that their cards have been used for unauthorized purchases. 

Banks have repeatedly warned clients against these scammers telling people they would never ask for information they already knew.  

The smartphone, which can store sensitive personal and financial information, is now being used to rob people without threat of violence. 

Scammers are particularly taking advantage of the mobile phone services upgrade to 5G. One condominium dweller was personally visited by a “mobile network representative” to change her SIM (subscriber identification module) with a 5G one. The “agent” took her phone and was gone for a few minutes. After he returned her phone, she found out withdrawals had been made from her bank account. 

Another was called about a package from overseas and was kept on hold for several minutes. After the call, she could no longer use her phone. She found out somebody pretending to be her asked for the transfer of her number to another phone and her credit card was maxed out. 

With all these reports, the @Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company’s (PLDT) wireless unit @Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart) announced it was fully supporting the investigations being conducted by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), the National Privacy Commission (NPC), and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to stop the proliferation of SMS (text or short message service)  spam-based scam and fraud. 

Smart also blocked daily, as of this month, 400-500 mobile numbers that had been used in SMS hoax and spam, and some 40 domains and IP addresses used by online scammers. 

It is also conducting an awareness campaign through social media warning clients about the scam and advising them on how to avoid being victimized.  

Mobile users who receive suspicious and unsolicited SMS may report directly to the NTC, via Smart has also implemented blocking access to domains or website addresses and specific IP addresses found to be related to these fraudulent schemes. 

Linda B. Bolido

Linda B. Bolido

is a freelance writer/editor, former contributing editor and columnist of the Philippine Daily Inquirer and contributing editor of Mirror magazine. She studied Journalism at the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication but earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from the Lyceum of the Philippines University. As a Fulbright-Hays grantee, she was a Professional Journalism (now John S. Knight) fellow at Stanford University in California, United States. She started as a reporter for Bulletin Today (Manila Bulletin). She was editor of Depthnews Radio and, later, Depthnews Asia. She lectures and conducts workshops on writing and editing for campus journalists, as her way of helping prepare those planning to work in media for the task ahead.


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