These scams have gone global as well, targeting other countries like India, Mexico, and Thailand.
When our mobile phones went mum due to the lack of social interaction amid the pandemic, of course, it made us miss those random buzzes from friends in the middle of the day. But we never asked for a barrage of suspicious spam texts from unknown numbers.
Now, they’re everywhere – offering jobs, easy money, and practically anything to lure us into letting go of our precious personal information.
To tech-savvy mobile users like us, these frustrating phishing attempts probably look amateur enough to be set aside. But someone else is always vulnerable, and they may be someone you know. So how do you help someone discern these dodgy text messages?
While the timing sure looks suspect, the National Privacy Commission (NPC) was quick to clarify that these streams of sketchy texts aren’t the result of contact tracing forms falling into the wrong hands. Rather, the NPC deduces that the activity is run by a “global crime syndicate” which uses state-of-the-art software to swiftly and secretly disseminate texts in large batches.
The question remains: how did these felons get our phone numbers? It’s still up in the air at this point, although tech experts point to the massive data breach that Facebook encountered earlier this year, with its affiliate application WhatsApp possibly affected, albeit undisclosed. That probably explains why most of the texts come with a “wa.me” link that, when clicked, immediately initiates the messaging app.
Regardless of the coincidence, your phone is still ringing repeatedly with all these spam texts anyway, so how do you take action?
First and foremost, do not respond to these messages by any means. Not everyone is shrewd enough to tell whether an offer is too good to be true, so it’s important that you remind people – your senior citizen parents, your officemates, the humble ates and kuyas you bump into daily who may be desperate to earn quick cash – to completely ignore these swindles.
According to Manila Bulletin’s resident cyber-security expert Art Samaniego, what these scammers do is send you a text including a link that transports the clicker to WhatsApp’s “click to chat” feature. They then discuss with you a “job opportunity” that you need to sign up for to earn commissions from online orders.
The registration page is how they acquire your personal data, including your e-mail address. Once you’ve “registered,” they give you access to a website disguised as an e-wallet or a “payout platform” where you would then have to register your bank card details to receive your dividends. Yeah, that’s a big NO.
Either that or the bogus website will resort to what’s called the “advance fee scam,” where it will ask you to deposit funds first to claim your commission. They would even route your initial earnings through legitimate payment platforms such as GCash or UnionBank to seem real, but that’s only until they get you hooked.
As cybercriminals become more sophisticated, it’s not enough to just ignore their tricks anymore. Educate the next person, and report the number to Globe’s Stop Spam to block the contact completely.
Art Macky Arquilla