Joint operation by DOJ, PAOCC and DICT-CICC nets thousands of SIM cards, 650 persons of interest, 800 computers, 200 smartphones and several units of spamming equipment in cyber scam hub raid
In a significant blow to cybercrime in the Philippines, authorities raided an alleged cyber scam hub in Pasay City early this week. In a joint operation, the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC), and the Cybercrime Investigation and Coordinating Center (CICC) took the lead, with significant support from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Philippine National Police (PNP). The team identified around 650 people as persons of interest, including Chinese and Indian nationals.
The authorities said that they had been monitoring the establishment for almost two months from the intel given by an informant inside the cyber scam hub to the DOJ and the DICT-CICC and had gathered evidence that it was being used to operate a variety of cyber scams. Upon verifying all the information was accurate, the case was then referred to the NBI for the application of the Warrant to Search, Seize and Examine Computer Data.
The authorities said that they had been monitoring the suspected cybercrime center for nearly two months, based on information provided by an insider informant to the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Information and Communications Technology-Cybercrime Investigation and Coordination Center (DICT-CICC). Substantial evidence was collected during this period, substantiating the claim that the facility was the hub for numerous online scams. After verifying the authenticity of the evidence, the case was forwarded to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), prompting them to apply for a warrant to search, seize, and examine the computer data.
During the raid, the authorities confiscated thousands of SIM cards, more than 800 computers, around 200 mobile phones, and other electronic devices used to perpetrate the scam. They also found evidence that the persons of interest were using the establishment to run a variety of scams, including romance scams, crypto investment scams, phishing scams, and task scams. Authorities also said that the cyber scam hub was also used for spamming activities that send malicious links to the users as they found units of sms blaster, equipment used to send text messages in bulk. This device needs an NTC license before users can use it in the country. This, however, is being peddled by Chinese companies online via the social media marketplace.
More than 200 smartphones believed to be used by scammers to collect money from victims were confiscated in the raid. (Photo by Juan Carlo de Vela, MB)
The raiding team also found scripts to lure people into the love scam. Scammers will try to befriend users and eventually create an online relationship. When scammers get the victims’ trust, they will encourage the victim to invest in a non-existing crypto investment program.
The raid is a significant development in the fight against cybercrime in the Philippines. It is a clear signal that the authorities are taking the issue seriously and that they are committed to bringing cybercriminals to justice.
The raid also highlights the growing problem of cybercrime in the Philippines. The country has become a major hub for cybercrime due to its large population of English-speaking workers and its relatively low cost of living.
“This is a major victory in the fight against cybercrime in the Philippines. However, it is important to remember that this is just one battle in a long war. We need to continue to work hard to combat cybercrime and to protect the public from these criminals,” said CICC Director Rojun Hosillos.
The Cybercrime Investigation and Coordinating Center (CICC) has shared some tips to help avoid getting caught in the three main scams: First, never answer messages or calls from people you don’t know. Many scams start with someone you don’t know trying to talk to you. Second, watch out for any messages that promote easy-money schemes. These usually are scams. And third, be careful when using Viber, WhatsApp, and Telegram apps. Don’t click on links in text messages or chats from people you don’t know. These links can take you to fake websites that steal your information. The CICC said that following these tips can help keep you safe from cyber scams.
DOJ Undersecretary Nicholas Felix Ty led the entire operation. DOJ Office of Cybercrime conducted the initial forensic examination of the devices and is assisted by a team of cybersecurity professionals from the Cybercrime Investigation and Coordinating Center (CICC) led by Director Rojun Hosillos.