HOW do they do it? Before some people can catch up with the old con, scam artists have already come up with another variation on the old theme—you know, the one about erroneous charges in your phone bill that you can correct by sending a set of digits to a phone number.
As many of those who did as they were asked found out after it was too late, they actually sent free phone time to some stranger’s mobile. The erroneous charges did not exist.
So now, as the old con is probably not working as well as before, scam artists have come up with a new spiel.
Last Sunday, I received this message on my mobile: “Sir/ma’am ang inyong postpaid plan ay may free Internet 30days na from LTE. Kung gusto nyo iclaim itext lamang po 300 at isend sa 29161543479 mag reply lamang po ng YES sa susunod na mensahe.”
First, I don’t know what LTE is. Second, it does not speak well for a company to offer a client some new product without even knowing if the subscriber is a man or a woman. I am reminded of fast-food staff members who automatically greet a customer “Good morning ma’am/sir.” It is up to the client to decide which one he or she is.
Since the offer in the text message is made to postpaid subscribers, one expects the network to have the courtesy to address the client correctly.
But these things only make the message suspect. At least past cons played it safe. They simply said “You have been charged…” Whether the recipient was a man or a woman, he/she could assume the message was meant for him/her.
I have passed on the message and the phone number of the sender to Globe, my network. I advise other postpaid clients to do the same. At the very least, they should verify with their network if the message is authentic.
I am reprinting Globe’s advice to its customers.
“To help reduce, if not eliminate, text scams, Globe customers are encouraged to report any suspected scam message via the following:
- Globe website through Talk2Globe Chat (http://chat.globe.com.ph)
- Globe Contact Form (http://www.globe.com.ph/ stopspam )
- Twitter via @Talk2GLOBE.
“Customers can put the number, the exact message and the time and date the text scam was received. Such numbers will be immediately disconnected from service once the company gets validation that they are indeed used for such unscrupulous activities.”
We should not only prevent con people from profiting from their crime but we should also inconvenience them, even if only slightly, by compelling them to change their numbers as often as necessary. Subscriber identification modules (SIM) may be quite cheap these days but it is certainly quite a hassle to have to change your number every day or so.
And if a bill recently submitted in the Senate becomes a law, these con people with prepaid SIM cards will have to put up with the added inconvenience of having to register every time they get a new mobile number.
Incidentally, government agencies do not take kindly to being dragged into some scams, like nonexistent raffles that give away huge amounts as prizes.
The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), which is often “conducting” raffles, if text messages are to be believed, asks the police to investigate hoaxes that are brought to its attention. I have heard that one or two con men have already been arrested and charged in court for invoking the BSP’s name in their hustle.
So don’t just dismiss text scams as the work of idle minds—mga walang magawa. Con men are criminals. They are trying to rob you even if you don’t meet face to face.
Send letters to The Consumer, Lifestyle Section, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 1098 Chino Roces Ave. cor. Mascardo and Yague Sts., 1204 Makati City; fax 8974793/94; or e-mail lbolido@