Foreign numbers: The new tool for scammers as crackdown targets local lines




As the Philippine government continues its campaign against SIM and mobile number-related crimes, scammers are evolving their tactics. They're increasingly using foreign phone numbers to mask their identities and trick unsuspecting users. This shift poses a new challenge for citizens, who need to be more vigilant than ever about protecting their personal information.

The intensified government efforts, along with increasing public awareness, have made it harder for scammers to operate using Philippine numbers. By utilizing foreign numbers, cybercriminals can bypass SIM registration regulations. SIM card registration laws target local numbers, making foreign numbers less likely to be traced.

Usec Alexander Ramos, Cybercrime Investigation and Coordinating Center executive director, recently warned the public about the scammers’ tactic: “The number of scam messages people receive from unknown prepaid numbers daily has significantly decreased because of the SIM Card Registration Law. However, organized cybercrime syndicates have resorted to illegal SMS broadcasting devices such as the IMSI Catcher, and others even use foreign SIM cards to send fraudulent SMS with dangerous links. We urge the people to never click the link from unknown senders.” 

Scammers can imitate legitimate businesses or organizations by using IMSI catchers that trick phones into connecting to a fake Telco antenna. They may pretend to be representatives of international companies, banks, or even government agencies.

“By using foreign numbers, the scammers can create a sense of confusion or surprise. An unexpected foreign call can catch people off-guard, making them more likely to engage with the scammer.” Usec Ramos added.

Angel T. Redoble & Associates, CISO as a Service, Managing Partner Angel Redoble said, “Scammers are increasingly using international mobile numbers to send SMS phishing (smishing) messages primarily to evade detection and increase their chances of success. By employing numbers from various countries, they can bypass some of the traditional security measures that target domestic sources of spam and fraud. “ 

Redoble agreed with Usec Ramos, “This tactic also exploits the curiosity or confusion that might arise from receiving an international message, potentially making recipients more likely to engage with the content. Additionally, using diverse international numbers makes it more challenging for authorities to track and prosecute the perpetrators, who can obscure their actual location and identity behind these foreign numbers,” Redoble added.

We all need to be aware of the prevalent scams happening in the Philippines, with one of the most common being the fake Globe rewards and fake Land Transportation Office (LTO) notification schemes orchestrated by cyber criminals. In the fake Globe rewards scam, unsuspecting users are enticed with offers of inexpensive goods in exchange for their credit card details. However, this seemingly attractive deal is a scheme created by cybercriminals, who exploit the provided payment information for illegal purposes. Similarly, the fake LTO notification scam preys on individuals by falsely notifying them of traffic violations and providing a payment method for resolution. Once the victim submits payment through the supplied method, cybercriminals record the details and exploit them to siphon funds from the victim’s account. Remain cautious of such fraudulent tactics and refrain from sharing sensitive information or making payments without thorough verification to thwart these malicious schemes.

Other scams to watch out for when using services like WhatsApp and Telegram include fake prizes or promotions where scammers may offer too-good-to-be-true prizes or deals, requiring “verification” of your personal details or payments for processing fees.

Also, be aware of urgent requests, where scammers create a sense of urgency by impersonating a family member, friend, or authority figure in need of immediate financial assistance.

One of the most common scams is a task scam, in which cybercriminals claim to be from a reputable company and look for someone willing to like and comment on pages and videos. In the end, the victim pays for the promised money they will get from the tasks.

Jocel de Guzman, co-founder of Scam Watch Pilipinas, warned internet users about fraudulent messages with malicious links. “The anti-scam prevention approach of Scam Watch Pilipinas is through online attitude change, such as ‘Mang-isnab’ or ignoring messages with links from unknown senders. They must start making that a habit to prevent themselves from becoming victims of scams.”   

While the fight against cybercrime is ongoing, awareness is your best defense. By being informed about scammers' evolving tactics and exercising caution, you can significantly reduce your risk of falling victim to these fraudulent schemes.

The evolution of scam tactics poses a significant threat to the security of individuals’ personal information. It’s important to remember to never share personal information or engage with unsolicited messages, especially those from foreign numbers. Always verify the legitimacy of requests independently and report any suspicious activity to CICC hotline 1326. Ultimately, awareness and prudent action are our best defenses against falling victim to these malicious schemes. Stay informed, stay cautious, and together, we can combat cybercrime effectively.