Unregistered SIM cards and legal gaps offer new avenues for fraud, even as law enforcement steps up vigilance
The Philippine National Police Anti-Cybercrime Group (PNP ACG) has warned the public about evolving scammer strategies, even as the country observes a 50% reduction in SIM card-related crimes following the full implementation of the SIM registration law.
According to PNP ACG, there were 2,318 cases related to SIM card crimes a month before the law’s full enforcement. That number has since decreased to 1,134 cases one month after implementation. Despite the promising drop, scammers continue to devise new methods to evade the law.
One tactic scammers have employed exploits the five-day grace period, which allows the registration of previously deactivated SIM cards past the initial deadline. In addition, scammers have begun purchasing unregistered, inactive SIM cards, which they use to intercept One-Time Passwords (OTPs). These OTPs grant them access to popular messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Telegram, and Viber. Once connected via Over-The-Top (OTT) services, they can operate without attracting the attention of telecommunications companies.
“These SIM cards remain dormant until registered, allowing them to accept incoming calls and text messages while restricting their ability to initiate outbound communication,” explained Brigadier General Sydney S. Hernia, director of the Philippine National Police Anti-Cybercrime Group (PNP-ACG). Utilizing these unregistered SIM cards for connectivity through Wi-Fi networks, scammers can send spam messages and various other scams to unwitting individuals. These activities remain concealed due to the anonymity provided by OTT messaging platforms. Once their goals are achieved, the scammers discard these SIM cards, effectively erasing any trace of their origins.
Another concern highlighted by the police involves financially distressed individuals selling registered SIM cards and digital wallet accounts to scammers. As there are no restrictions on the number of SIM cards one person can own, this has opened a loophole that scammers are eager to exploit.
PNP ACG has affirmed its ongoing commitment to monitor and fight against these and other evolving scammer tactics. “We are tirelessly working to investigate and combat these evolving scams, and we deeply appreciate the public’s cooperation in this endeavor. Staying informed and vigilant allows us to collectively shield ourselves and our communities from falling prey to scammers,” stated PBGen Hernia.