Phone scammers also target Filipino lawmakers

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Photo used for illustrative purposes.

Manolo B. Jara, correspondent

Spam and phishing have become “personalized”, with target victims or phone number owners being addressed by name in text messages.

And among the victims were members of the Philippine Senate who had the surprise of life by receiving text messages sent through their personal phone numbers which are believed to be restricted.

As a result, Senator Grace Poe, chair of the Public Services Committee, said she would launch an investigation into the proliferation of personalized text messages.

Poe said the investigation was based on complaints not only from ordinary citizens who were victimized, but also from other senators who received text messages using their personal phone numbers.

“The relentless surge in SMS scams has brought more hardship and distress to our people who are already mired in debt,” the senator stressed.

She revealed that she herself had received text messages from prepaid cellphones promising jobs, extra income, incentives and gifts.

Senator Jinggoy Estrada, the son of former President Estrada, also gave a privileged speech, citing several cases of scam artists who contacted him to solicit funds.

One of these messages supposedly came from a member of the board of directors of a province in the Bicol region. He said the lawyer was seeking funds for the “spiritual formation” and “team building” of employees of this provincial government.

According to Estrada, one of these scammers claimed to be Batanes Vice Governor Ignacio Villa, while another claimed to be Congressman Leo Rodriguez from Catanduanes in the Bicol region.

Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri also said he continues to receive such messages. He also disclosed that the Philippine National Police (PNP) had arrested several individuals who he said posed as local officials for alleged projects.

Senator Nancy Binay is another spam recipient, notably when she received a text message on her home phone “with my name on it”.

“I was so shocked because I never use my personal phone for online transactions,” Binay said. “My number isn’t even linked to any other social media account. So how did they get the number?”

The country’s two biggest telecom providers said they blocked more than a billion spam and suspicious text messages between them this year. PLDT and Globe have assured their combined 156 million mobile subscribers that cybercriminals have not breached their security systems.



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