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Chat Rooms Uncovered As New Scammer Modus

Chat Rooms Uncovered As New Scammer Modus
Screenshots show the text messages from various mobile phone numbers offering jobs to recipients. PLDT and Smart said they have intensified efforts against the scam, preventing more than 75,000 attempts to open the phishing sites.

Telco giant PLDT Inc. and its wireless arm Smart Communications Inc. said they have uncovered a new strategy being used by fraudsters as they continue to intensify efforts against SMS spam-based scam.

PLDT said recent undercover work by the group’s cyber security operations team showed that the link found in newer text messages directs customers to a group chat in the messaging application WhatsApp.

PLDT and Smart information security agents believe that the group chat administrators are part of the syndicate who could be locals operating in the country.

The scammers claim to be representatives of a popular Japanese department store chain looking to invest in the country.

To validate their claim, fraudsters even show victims supposed DTI certificates, according to PLDT.

“They’re herding potential victims into one group chat where they explain the supposed job or income opportunity. Similar with previous engagements, the fraudsters will ask customers to sign up on the syndicate’s platform, link up their digital wallet and shell out money to invest in the program,” said Angel Redoble, first vice president and chief information security officer of the PLDT Group, ePLDT and Smart.

“Before disabling the chat function, the administrators will advise customers to refer to their assigned customer service representatives for guidance,” he said.

Cybersecurity experts from PLDT and Smart also discovered another group chat targeting newcomers.

Redoble said the scam operators in both groups follow the same script often used by marketers in Ponzi schemes to lure potential victims.

“We believe that some members in the chat who post testimonials about making money from these investments are co-conspirators,” he said.

Redoble said victims are instructed to transfer the initial amount to a mobile wallet or a bank account to begin participating in the scheme.

Once hooked, victims are asked to complete tasks by purchasing items, clicking links or watching YouTube videos to earn commissions.

PLDT and Smart investigations revealed that in both groups, fraudsters encourage members to bring in friends and relatives to boost their payout, similar to a digital pyramid scheme.

“There are different membership tiers depending on the amount you shell out. The higher tiers promise bigger returns,” said Redoble.

PLDT and Smart said they have intensified efforts against the scam, preventing more than 75,000 attempts to open the phishing sites.

“These domains are no longer accessible to Smart customers. We are closely watching this fraudulent activity so we can further beef up our cyber defenses and protect customers from get-ting scammed,” Redoble said.

PLDT and Smart also continue to engage government authorities and other stakeholders to put an end to the SMS-initiated investment scam.