If you’ve ever received one of those text messages offering a part-time job just by opening a link, think before you click: It is a scam.
Many Filipinos have reported receiving text messages with job offers, some even abroad, with a promise of daily wages upwards of P1,000. It might seem legitimate and enticing given this is a far cry from the meager daily minimum wage. And it even seems hassle-free as all you have to do is click a link. When you click on it, a chat on WhatsApp is initiated and this is where the scam begins.
According to a report by cybercrime analyst and Manila Bulletin reporter Art Samaniego, what makes this quick chat possible is a feature called “click to chat.” This allows the scammer to “pre-fill a chat box with a message from the one who would click the link.”
Through WhatsApp, Samaniego said, “The cybercriminal then informed me that I could get a job using my phone to complete virtual orders. I could then get a commission for every completed virtual order. The scammer then asked me to register.”
You will be redirected to a website to register and an initial monetary offer will then lure you, promising better returns as you send more money through GCash. But this is, of course, part of the whole scheme: You deposit money thinking you will get back even more by doing a simple task.
Samaniego found that this is not exclusive to the Philippines. In fact, Brazil, Mexico, India, and Thailand appear to also be infested with smishing scams. He is currently working with the National Privacy Commission (NPC) to find out more about this new scam. What they know so far is that Filipinos are not behind these cyber operations as the messages are often encoded in simplified Chinese language or plain English.
In another report, Samaniego said that it is unlikely that the scammers obtained cellular numbers through contact tracing apps. “While we have discussed the possible vulnerability of many contact tracing apps before, there is no proof that spammers use the phone numbers from the apps to send WhatsApp links and messages.”
Chair of the Senate labor committee Sen. Joel Villanueva urged NPC to investigate what he described as an “epidemic of text scams.” He added that cash-strapped Filipinos are most vulnerable to these scams offering high-paying jobs.
According to the latest jobs report by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), the country’s unemployment rate as of September is at 8.9 percent. This is equivalent to 4.3 million unemployed Filipinos. It’s also the highest among emerging Asian economies.