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Halt to online SIM listup eyed

PAOCC says system takes fake IDs; Senators say just enforce the law

The online registration of SIM (subscriber identity module) cards should be temporarily stopped as the system accepts fake identities and information, the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC) said on Friday.

But Senators Grace Poe and Alan Cayetano said backing down against scammers who used SIMs illegally was not an option, as the solution was stricter enforcement of the new SIM Registration Act.

In a related development, the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) has launched the Consumer Application Monitoring Systems (CAMS) platform, an initiative of its Cybercrime Investigation and Coordinating Center (CICC).

The CAMS will monitor online applications such as delivery apps, payment platforms and shopping platforms like Lazada and Shopee to ensure consumer protection, and even government apps for its efficiency, DICT said in a statement.

PAOCC executive director Undersecretary Gilbert Cruz told GMA News they found and confiscated a piece of equipment that can register up to 64 SIM cards at the same time. He said this equipment is for sale even online.

“Maybe for the meantime—this is just our suggestion—we should temporarily stop the registration of new SIM cards,” Cruz said.

He said telecommunication companies and authorities should “physically or manually” check the information of registrants so they can remove those who submitted dummy information and conduct and go after the perpetrators.

Cruz also suggested issuing a department or an executive order allowing telcos to have a reference from the agencies that are issuing IDs so they can cross-check for authenticity.

On Thursday, PAOCC demonstrated to the press how SIM cards may be registered using anime names and photos as well as made-up addresses.

With this, SIM registration for purposes of committing cyber crime has been easy, as telcos reportedly use artificial intelligence in the process.

But Poe said the problem is not with the SIM Registration Law, but in the enforcement.

“The law has enough teeth against fraudsters as well as safeguards to privacy of our people,” said the chairperson of the Senate committee on public services.

She noted that concerned agencies and telcos must be able to plug the loopholes in their effective implementation without halting registration.

Eradicating text scams does not need to disenfranchise legitimate users, the senator said.

Cayetano said the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) should focus on enhancing the registration process and implementing stricter measures.

He said the NCT can prevent such incidents from happening by setting an example and hunting down at least five persons who have committed such acts and filing a case against them.

He also suggested that the SIM registration be integrated into the National ID system to make the verification simpler and more reliable.

As for the CAMS platform, DICT Secretary Ivan John Uy said its launching is a “good opportunity” for collaboration between the private and government sectors.

“This will be a useful tool to identify the performance and the problem with government applications,” he said. “People often blame poor online services for connectivity although sometimes the problems are in poor applications.”

SIM CLONING TOOL. Pictured is a typical SIM cloning tool sold on Amazon.com and other online retailers. But the government says modern scammers have tools that can clone as many as 64 SIMs at a time.

CICC Executive Director Alexander Ramos said the platform will help in educating the public.

“It’s not a warning, but rather it’s a tool. Our objective is to educate the public. People should understand we are not here to put down or to put up anyone,” he said. “And, you know, we are here for the public to understand that there are options.”

Through the CAMS platform, consumers can identify in real time which applications are performing well.

For its part, Smart Communications Inc. said the entire cyber scam system “must be put into light and not be obsessed or focused on certain parts.”

“The entire cyber scam system must be put into light and not be obsessed or focused on certain parts — instead all stakeholders should work on a holistic solution,” it said.

“SIM cards are largely imported and are used in other IT devices, i.e. bank cards; aside from cellphones. It’s not in the production or importation but in the misuse by unscrupulous elements,” it added.

Globe Telecoms had earlier said that it does not sell pre-registered SIMs. Though the address can be edited after registration, a registrant’s name cannot, it said.

From January to August, the Philippine National Police (PNP) said its Anti-Cybercrime Group has investigated a total of 16,297 cybercrime cases.

So far, 4,902 people were victimized and 397 suspects have been arrested.

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