PNP raises concern over surge in online identity scams

PNP raises concern over surge in online identity scams
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THE Philippine National Police (PNP) has expressed alarm over the increasing cases of identity theft or “hijack profile” scams that entail unauthorized access to a specific social media account to be used for illegal activities, such as asking for financial assistance under false pretenses.

In a press conference, PNP chief of the Public Information Office (PIO) Colonel Jean Fajardo urged the public to be more cautious in using social media, especially the sharing of personal information.

“Alarming in the sense na tumataas po s’ya at one of the challenges po talaga na na-mention natin before ay ang hirap po talagang i-trace nitong mga ito (Alarming in the sense that it is increasing and one of the challenges that we mentioned before is that it is really difficult to trace these), because we are facing a nameless and faceless criminals hiding their identity behind a cellphone and computer para ma-hack po ‘yung mga accounts ng ating mga kababayan,” she said.

Data from the PNP Anti-Cybercrime Group showed that 178 cases of online identity theft have been recorded from November 2023 to February 2024.

It said 89 of which happened in February 2024, indicating a “concerning” upward trend of the crime.

The scammers use various tactics to gain access to the profile, such as phishing, hacking, or social engineering techniques, which is a violation of Republic Act 10175, or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012.

To prevent falling victim to a hijack profile scam, the PNP urged the public to use strong, unique passwords for online accounts, enable multi-factor authentication whenever possible, be cautious about clicking on links or downloading attachments from unknown sources, and regularly monitor online accounts for any suspicious activity.

Fajardo also reminded the public to avoid transacting with online financial applications using public Wi-Fi connections as it is also one of the possible avenues for the hackers to access information on someone’s cell phone.

“Sana po ay maging aware ‘yung mga kababayan natin dito sa hijack profile scam. Ang ibig sabihin nito ay ‘yung unauthorized access doon sa inyong mga social media accounts. Naha-hack po yan by phishing or unauthorized access doon sa inyong mga account at once ma-hijack po nila o manakaw na po ang inyong account ay nandoon po lahat ang kanilang friends at kakilala. Normally, ang nangyayari dyan ay sasabihin na nagre-request ng financial assistance na nasa ospital ang kapatid ko, asawa ko, baka pwedeng padalahan mo naman ako sa GCash ko,” she said.

(I hope our countrymen will be aware of the hijack profile scam. This means unauthorized access to your social media accounts. That can be hacked by phishing or unauthorized access to your accounts and once they hijack or steal your account, all their friends and acquaintances will be there. Normally, what happens there is the hacker will claim that the user’s sister, or husband was hospitalized and is requesting financial assistance, so maybe you can send me money through GCash.)

“Wag po tayong ginamit ng birthdate natin, birthday ng asawa natin o ‘yung mga important dates sa buhay po natin (as passwords) dahil madali pong ma-trace yan kasi doon sa mga accounts natin, kapag sinearch po tayo ay andon ang mga birthdays natin. Sa mga group natin ay nagpapaalala pop-up ‘yung mga birthdays natin. Minsan yun lang ang kailangan sa isang transaction at makukuha na po agad,” she added.

(Don't use your birthdate, husband's birthday or important dates in our lives (as passwords) because it's easy to trace that in our accounts. When we search, our birthdays are there. In our groups, pop-ups remind us of our birthdays. Sometimes that is all that is needed in a transaction and it can be obtained immediately.)

The PNP advised the public that if they suspect their profile has been hijacked, immediately report it to the platform or service provider, take steps to secure the account, and notify relevant authorities to avoid potential legal liabilities that may arise from unauthorized access or misuse of the online identity. (TPM/SunStar Philippines)


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