Many Filipinos have had an experience of heavy bombardment of text messages from unknown phone numbers – some offer job opportunities, others present exciting business deals, and many invite account reactivation for enhanced security.
While they sound promising, these text messages are a fraud and many already fell victim to these traps and deceitful tactics.
For a time, fraudsters were winning in compromising the security of Filipinos in digital spaces, until the passage and enactment of their Kryptonite – Republic Act No. 11934 or the “Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) Registration Act.”
By virtue of this new law, SIMs of all types provisioned by Public Telecommunications Entities (PTE) must be regulated and so must be subject to registration by its end-users, embedding a real identity on the SIMs and thereafter thwarting malicious intent and harm to the public.
A SIM might be as small as a fingernail but it plays a huge role as electronic devices rely on this card to send text messages, make phone calls, and connect to the internet in the absence of Wi-Fi or Wireless Fidelity.
It is a powerful tool in wireless telecommunications - the transmission of information by means of electronic technologies – as it holds key information such as phone numbers, contacts list, stored text messages, network data, and other important information.
In layman’s terms, a SIM is a portable memory chip that allows people to establish a connection in a cellular network and enable communication from one user to another through Short Message Service (SMS), voice calls, and internet features such as video calls and teleconferencing.
Without this tiny card, telecommunications across great distances will be limited for many, especially for those without access to and no capability to avail of home broadband services.
As telecommunications play an integral part in the economic development and the security and integrity of the country, the government recognizes the need for the registration of SIMs to safeguard the interest of Filipinos against cyber threats such as phishing, text scamming, bank fraud, proliferation of disinformation, and indecent messages, among many others.
Without registration by April 26 of this year, SIMs will be automatically deactivated and will no longer be useable, although the deactivated SIM may still be pleaded for reactivation within five days after the registration deadline.
The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) is tasked to lead the implementation of the SIM Registration Act, in coordination with other government agencies such as the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), and National Privacy Commission (NPC), together with PTEs and consumer groups.
The NTC is tasked to lead the implementation of the SIM Registration Act in coordination with other government agencies. Other agencies such as The Department of Education (DepEd) and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) are also there to assist the NTC, DICT, and other concerned agencies in the conduct of SIM registration in remote areas with limited telecommunications and internet access, including assisted registration for senior citizens and individuals without internet-ready devices.
In Antique, following the first Facilitated SIM Registration (FSR) in Pandan town that achieved over 1,400 registrants in a single day, the NTC Regional Office 6 and the PTEs continue to bring the FSR to more communities and help secure more Filipinos.
One month into the implementation of the Act, DICT Secretary Ivan Uy said in a Malacañan press briefing that he has personally observed a significant drop in text scams, to which NTC Region 6 Legal Officer Deo Virgil R. Tan agreed, saying that the number of smishing complaints filed with their office has declined in the past weeks – a promising indication of the progress of the SIM registration.
For Je-ann Gaspar, a native of Aklan and a SIM distributor counter personnel in San Jose de Buenavista town, gone are the days when scam text messages filled her device’s inbox, particularly those saying that she emerged as a winner in a raffle draw.
“How can I win in a raffle draw if I didn’t even join any,” she exclaimed.
With her own and her family members' SIMs now registered, she devotes her time to assisting clients and even welcomes anyone who seeks her help with SIM registration in accordance with the law.
As the SIM Registration Act takes its course in the following months, it is but the Filipinos' dream to be free from the perils of fraud and be protected against the misuse and exploitation of SIMs that have taken advantage of many.
Scammers may have celebrated their triumphs in the past, but not for more – the clock is ticking and their end is nearing as the whole country embraces SIM registration for a secure nation. (AAL/BPS/PIA Antique)