Mobile users may soon be limited to registering up to 10 SIM cards, as the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) has observed that text scams continue to be prevalent despite the enactment of Republic Act 11934, or the SIM Registration Act.
The decision to put a cap on the registration is part of the DICT's ongoing plan to revise the implementing rules and regulation of (IRR) of the said act, DICT Undersecretary Alexander Ramos told the local press on Sept. 5.
Ramos said that Filipinos prefer to buy prepaid SIMs because they budget the telco services they avail of. As such, it makes no sense for prepaid owners to own over 10 SIMs, unless they are taking part in the distribution of text scams.
The agency, according to Ramos, has even detected that one user registered 600 SIM cards.
“As far as registration is concerned, we would like to limit the number of prepaid registered SIM cards. We would like to further expedite the exchange of data between agencies,” Ramos said.
He added that the agency is initially eyeing to put the cap at five SIM cards, but telco providers agreed to the proposed limit of 10.
According to Ramos, DICT is looking to implement it "within a few months."
Apart from the lack of limit to SIM registrations, DICT pointed to the buying and selling of pre-registered SIMs nationwide as one of the causes of the continuing surge of scam texts.
In August alone, authorities seized more than 100,000 pre-registered SIMs that were put up for sale online.
Telco providers, meanwhile, noted that phishing companies have begun shifting to digital spaces.
Last week mobile giant Globe Telecom Inc. warned that malicious activities have been rampant on messaging platforms and from overseas numbers.
This was affirmed by Atty. Roy Ibay of Smart Communications who, in a Sept. 4 Senate hearing, said that scammers have been resorting to over-the-top (OTT) services such as Viber, Whatsapp, and Messenger.
“If you [have] a number... and you did not register it... although you may not use the basic services or the cellphone operator, the service would still continue with the [OTTs],” Ibay said in the hearing.
He also explained that even if a SIM card is deactivated, users can still access the services from Viber especially when they already have their accounts signed in on the application prior the deadline of the SIM registration.
DICT further noted that they are currently working with teleco providers, the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) and the National Privacy Commission (NPC) to strengthen the SIM Registration Act's IRR.
“As far as the IRR is concerned, we are looking at strengthening it. We don’t need to amend [the law] because the safeguards are there. It’s more of the IRR that we need to really fix and we are working closely with the telcos, NTC and NPC on this,” Ramos said.
The SIM Registration Act was signed into law by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on October 10, 2022, while its implementation began on Dec. 27 of that year.
The deadline for SIM card registration was initially set for April 2023 before it was extended by 90 days to July 25.
NTC's data showed that as of July 30, a total of 113.9 million users registered their SIMs out of the total 168 million subscribers nationwide recorded last year. (With reports from Elijah Felice Rosales)