Text Spammers Know Your App Usernames, What's Going On?

Filipinos have been plagued with spam text messages in recent weeks with some more alarming than others since it contains their usernames in digital wallet and messaging apps.

While spam messages are nothing new, recent ones have caused concern that spammers could have gotten a hold of the private and personal information of individuals which could compromise safety and security.

"Ang difference noon tsaka ngayon, mas gusto nilang pag-mukhaing kapani-paniwala by including your name para mas maengganyo ka i-click [yung link]," Michael Santos, chief of the National Privacy Commission Complaints and Investigative Division, said in a webinar.


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Those behind spam messages containing the names of users could have gotten the information from social media apps such as e-wallets where users' names and numbers are registered, according to Col. Jay Guillermo, assistant chief of the cyber response unit of the Philippine National Police.


"Dahil sa mga social media application natin nilalagay natin mismo sa number. Itong mga social media applications na ito required kang maglagay ng pangalan at numero mo," he said.

What do the spammers know about us?

Based on the initial investigation of the NPC, spammers' knowledge of users appears to be limited to the names and numbers according to Santos which explains why the links in the spam messages direct to websites asking for more information about the users.

"Kaya sila nagpapa-sign up [ sa mga website] para makuha nila yung ibang information natin para i-scammin pa tayo," Santos said.

What have authorities observed?

An initial observation by the NPC showed that the majority of the spam messages were sent from numbers starting with "0981" according to Santos.

Links included in the text messages also often direct to gambling, and cryptocurrency websites that require users to fill up forms asking for more personal information.

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"Ang pakay nila kumuha pa ng mas maraming info[rmation]. Sa tingin namin, sa ngayon ang alam lang nila pangalan natin at yung number," Santos said.

Data aggregators are unlikely to be the source of the recent wave of spam messages according to the NPC, which noted that phone-to-phone transmission is a possible source.

Millions of numbers have been blocked by telecommunication firms too, given the rise of spam messages.

"In fact, may mga 400 million na tayo na naba-block na messages at hundreds of thousands na numbers," Angel Redoble, PLDT and Smart chief information security officer, said.

For Globe, some 784 million spam messages and over 14,000 numbers have been blocked from January to June alone according to its chief privacy officer Irish Salandanan-Almeida.

What can we do?

Users are advised to ignore, block, and report spam messages to authorities.

"Huwan na huwag pong magrereply sa mga ganitong messages," said Salandanan-Almeida.


Santos also discourages clicking of links included in the spam messages since doing so could compromise users' personal information.

Recipients of spam messages are encouraged to report these incidents through the NPC email, reportsmishing@privacy.gov.ph, or through its social media pages.


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