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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Avoid Being Ripped Off: Consumers, Be Wary of Text Scams

Current estimates place the number of mobile-phone subscribers in the Philippines at about 40 million with text traffic hitting the 100 million mark daily. Data from Smart Communications Inc. show a total of 24.2 million subscribers, while Globe and Touch Mobile subscribers stood at 15.7 million with analysts projecting growth in the number of subscribers to increase by 30 percent this year.

However, with the significant increase in mobile-phone users, the number of complaints against text scams is also on the rise.

Sender: +639063720735 - D'AUDITORS of PHIL.CHARITY FOUNDATION inform u that ur celfon number won Php950,000 2nd prize winner draw last March 13. Please call me now! I'M ATTY. REX F. LEE.

Sender: +639063720735 - We are glad to inform you that you have won P650,000 thru PGMA. Claim ur prize, call now i'm atty Garey B.Aquino from BSP Info. Department, DTI Permit #3920.

Sender: +639218340905 - Mabuhay! The CFPhils, special division office informing ur # had won $40,000.00 during our electronic raffle draw Pangkabuhayan 2006 para sa kababayang ofw/ocw..cfphils.. rcbc bldg 8th floor, room 803, mkati city phil/as per ncr-dti permit # 3264 series of 2006 call Nympha Salazar right now.

Sender: 09207311991 - We would like to inform you that you won 1 unit of STAREX VAN + 300 thousand pesos at DRAKKAR COSMETICS PARIS INTL COMPANY located at Rizal Ave. Olongapo City. Kindly contact LIZA SARMIENTO at 09165934232 or landline 047-2520132. Congratulations and call now!'

These are just some of the text or simple messaging service (SMS) scams usually forwarded to the Text DTI system of the Department of Trade and Industry.

Many are already aware of this fraudulent activity, yet there are still those who seem to be blinded by the promise of handsome rewards. With the popularity of text messaging, anybody who is rich or poor, educated or otherwise are always potential preys of text scams.

In a text scam, cellular phone subscribers are informed that they have won a special prize through a raffle sponsored by a particular company, government agency or foundation. Scammers often cite government agencies like the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes, and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation to make it more believable.

The alleged winners are usually asked to deposit money in a bank account or send prepaid load, supposedly as part of processing fees or tax payment, before they can claim the prize. However, after they have kept their end of the bargain, the culprits will then disappear with the money.

Scams through text messaging continue to victimize mobile-phone subscribers despite efforts of telecom companies and government regulators to curb the crime. As such, the DTI continuously urge the public to stay vigilant and beware of dubious text messages.

But what are other indications of a text scam?

Ÿ The text message was sent using an ordinary 11-digit cellular phone number (e.g. 0917-xxxxxxx; 0919-xxxxxxx). Raffle or game sponsors that intend to register and notify participants through SMS are required to obtain a special four-digit code from cellular network providers.

Ÿ The subscriber has won a raffle or contest without joining one. In valid sales promotions, participants usually join a contest by availing of a product or service. The receipt, coupon, wrapper, cap or any other proof of purchase can serve as the official entry form.

Ÿ The subscriber is being rushed to claim the prize. In valid sales promotions, winners are given sixty (60) days from the date of notification or announcement within which to get their prizes.

Remember that if you did not join any raffle, promo or contest, there is a slim or no chance at all of winning something. Furthermore, legitimate promos notify their winners in writing, by registered mail or any communication where proof of notice can be verified when the prize amounts to P500 or more, not through text messages.

It is also important to NEVER give access to your credit card or reveal your ATM numbers. Exposing this information is like waiving your protection against unauthorized transactions and fraudulent charges.

Unfortunately, text scammers are hard to pursue because they can easily switch from one number to another or can use multiple numbers to initiate the scam. The National Telecommunications Commission cannot file cases and can only recommend “blocking” the number used in the hoax. Blocking makes the Subscriber Identification Module or SIM card no longer usable.

Thus, the DTI reminds consumers to always keep their guard against scams in the market and to report such activities to the authorities so that perpetrators will be discouraged from victimizing innocent consumers.

Consumers may verify the promo by calling DTI Direct 7513330 or visiting Complaints may also be reported to the One-Stop Public Assistance Office (OSPAC), a sub-agency of the National Telecommunications Commission at 926-7722 / 436-7722 or email

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