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Unraveling the blame game and how you can safeguard against scams on both platforms

Over-the-top (OTT) services are any online offering delivered straight to the consumer, bypassing traditional telecom networks. These services include a wide range of applications such as streaming media platforms like Netflix, voice-over-IP services like Skype, and various messaging apps like Viber,  WhatsApp, FB Messenger and Telegram, now used by scammers to trick users. Unlike traditional telecom services, OTT platforms aren’t subject to the same limitations, allowing them to operate more flexibly—but also potentially creating opportunities for abuse like spam and scam messages.

Photo by Tracy Le Blanc:


Recently, telecom providers have blamed the proliferation of scam messages on OTT services, citing the lack of regulatory oversight as a significant vulnerability. According to telecom companies, this regulatory gap enables scammers to send misleading or fraudulent messages through OTT services without the same level of scrutiny or potential for being blocked.

It’s important to note, however, that scammers don’t exclusively use OTT platforms to send scam messages. They also exploit traditional SMS services. As such, pointing fingers solely at OTT services does not provide a holistic understanding or solution to the issue of scam messages. Scammers usually start by sending SMS to users, then ask them to transfer to one of the many OTT instant messaging services like Telegram, Viber or WhatsApp.

Several steps can be taken to block or reduce the risk of receiving scam messages through OTT platforms:

1. Use Built-in Security Features: Many OTT services offer spam filters or the option to block specific contacts.
2. Two-Factor Authentication: Enable two-factor authentication whenever possible to add an extra layer of security.

3. Report Suspicious Activity: Use the reporting features within the app to notify the service provider of any suspicious messages, helping them to improve their spam detection algorithms.

4. Be Selective: Only interact with known contacts and avoid sharing sensitive information through OTT services unless you know the recipient’s identity.

5. Educate and update: Stay informed about the latest scamming techniques and ensure your application is up-to-date to benefit from the latest security improvements.

No matter where the scam messages come from — be it OTT services or traditional SMS —users should:

  1. Avoid clicking on links in unsolicited messages.
  2. Be wary of requests for personal information.
  3. Confirm the legitimacy of a message by contacting the sender through a different medium.
  4. Keep all software updated to benefit from security improvements.

While telecom companies have some capacity to block scam messages, they cannot catch them all due to ever-evolving scamming tactics. OTT services also have capabilities to improve their spam and scam message filtering.

Given that both OTT and SMS that pass through the telecom networks can be exploited for scams, a unified approach to tackle the issue is critical. Telecom companies must utilize all available technologies, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms, to boost their scam-detecting capabilities. Likewise, OTT service providers should also enhance their anti-scam measures. Ultimately, a collaborative effort is essential for effective consumer protection in the digital age.

The Senate Committee on Public Services, headed by Senator Grace Poe, is investigating the continued proliferation of text scams despite the implementation of the SIM Registration law. It must also invite Viber, FB, WhatsApp, Telegram and other OTT service providers to shed light on this issue.


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National Cyber Security