Philippines makes cellphone SIM registration compulsory to fight scams, fraud

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MANILA, Oct 10 (Reuters) – Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos Jr on Monday signed into law a measure making cellphone SIM registration compulsory, in a key step towards fighting text scams, bank fraud and misinformation.

The law will require users to furnish full names and identity documents before buying a SIM card, with the aim of preventing criminals from concealing their identities.

“We will finally achieve what has long been overdue, an effective means of regulating the issuance of SIM cards to curb the spread of spam text messages and scams,” Marcos said in a speech.

The Philippines has one of Asia’s highest smartphone penetration rates, at 61% of its population of 110 million. People have relied heavily on mobile devices for shopping, food delivery orders and banking during the pandemic.

Marcos’ predecessor, Rodrigo Duterte, vetoed the legislation because of a now-deleted provision requiring social media users to register their identities and phone numbers.

Under the new law, existing pre-paid users are compelled to register.

The country’s telecoms providers, which have blocked more than 1 billion spam and suspicious text messages this year, welcomed the new measure.

PLDT said preparations are underway to comply with the new registration requirements, while Globe Telecom GLO.PS and DITO Telecommunity called for a wider rollout of the national identification system to help verify users.

Thousands of Filipinos have lost small amounts of money to phising via short messaging services this year, but only a few have filed formal complaints, the information and communications ministry said.

(Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales; Editing by Kanupriya Kapoor)

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