MANILA, Philippines—Careful with cheaper international calls to the Philippines. It may be the work of a “transnational” criminal syndicate.
The National Capital Region Police Office reported on Friday the arrest of two members of a syndicate that uses computers and other devices to convert inbound international calls to local calls, shortchanging telecommunications companies, and the Philippine government, of millions of pesos in revenue.
In a press conference at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig, NCRPO spokesperson Chief Insp. Kimberly Molitas Gonzales revealed that on Thursday, the regional intelligence operations unit arrested Korean female Yooun Nayong, 37, in a condominium unit on Boni Avenue, Mandaluyong City, and Filipino caretaker Carlo Dadulla, 21, in another unit in Bagong Barrio, Caloocan City, on the complaint of Globe Telecom.
The two stand accused of violating the Access Device Regulation Act of 1998, after they were caught in possession of GSM modems with SIM ports, hundreds of Globe and Touch Mobile SIM cards, Internet modems and gateways, cellphones, laptops, antenna consolidators, computer cables and other peripherals, believed used to bypass Globe’s system and to convert calls from abroad into local calls.
Globe-NCR representative Gerald Bechayda explained that with the networked devices, the syndicate allows calls to bypass the Globe International Gateway Facility. The syndicate converts the international caller’s number into a local cellphone number, so the call will be charged local instead of international rates.
Gonzales said the two suspects cater mostly to callers based in South Korea, though Bechayda said they believed the syndicate caters to international calls from other Asian countries.
A third-party information technology consultant, who refused to be named, explained that the syndicate’s “hotline” would be printed on call cards abroad sold by “foreign brokers.” The hotline instructs the callers on how to call the syndicate’s Philippine operations. When the Philippine-based operations receive the call, it uses the Globe SIMs to forward the calls to the Philippines-based recipients.
“If sometimes, you receive international calls reflected as local mobile numbers, this system is what they use,” the IT expert said.
The syndicate earns through “profit-sharing” especially with the call cards’ sales, he said.
Globe alleges that since November or in the past three months, the company has been shortchanged by an estimated P3.4 million in revenue because of the modus operandi; P400,000 in January alone.
Gonzales, quoting NCRPO director Chief Supt. Leonardo Espina, described the modus operandi as a “transnational crime” and an “economic sabotage.” She pointed out that the Philippine government also suffers losses because telecommunications taxes will also be shortchanged.
The IT consultant said Globe’s attention was drawn by an unusual volume of calls as early as April last year, with the company’s system able to detect “fraud-related” calls.
He added that callers abroad may be unwittingly engaging in something illegal. “The callers are also victims because they’re only finding ways to make cheaper calls,” he said.
Two other members of the syndicate in the Philippines are being sought, Gonzales said. Search warrants have already been procured from Judge Zaldy B. Docena of the Malabon Regional Trial Court Branch 170, though attempts to track down the suspects are hampered by constant transfer of the place of operations.
In the meantime, the local police vowed that they are “coordinating with other Asian countries to be able to resolve the problem.”
“We are also encouraging other telecommunications companies experiencing the same problem to come forward so we can curb future occurrences,” Gonzales said.