PH privacy commission warns public vs online fraud, scams amid COVID-19 scare

Robie de Guzman   •   March 24, 2020   •   510

MANILA, Philippines – The National Privacy Commission (NPC) on Tuesday warned the public against online scammers using the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) scare to exploit and steal money and personal information.

“A growing number of online fraudsters are exploiting the public fear surrounding COVID-19 pandemic, using the pandemic to lure people into clicking phishing emails and installing malwares capable of stealing personal data and money,” the NPC said in a statement.

“Our fear during a crisis can expose us to data privacy risks predisposing us to make hasty or ill-informed choices online, which fraudsters are taking advantage of,” it added.

In view of these heightened risks, the NPC appealed to the public to exercise caution online, especially when using online financial services and accessing health-related mobile applications.

“Be cautious with the sites you visit, enhance your privacy settings, and protect your personal data,” the agency said.

The NPC warned that now is the worst possible time to fall victim to online fraudsters as most of the people are accessing the internet to get news and make financial transactions.

“In this period of home quarantine, digital access becomes our main gateway not just for news but also to coordinate tasks with co-workers, make online financial transactions and most importantly, get in touch with loved ones,” it said.

“Indeed, now is the worst possible time to fall victim to online fraudsters. They can steal sensitive data, cause you financial and reputational damages, make your device unusable and cut you off from the outside world,” it added.

To avoid such scenarios, the privacy body urged the public to be vigilant and familiarize themselves with the warning signs.

It also encouraged everyone to practice the following tips to protect personal data in the time of COVID-19:

  • Do not give out your personal data in suspicious COVID-themed emails and messages.
  • Make trusted government and other legitimate websites your go-to source for the latest COVID information.
  • Ensure that the charity or crowdfunding campaign you plan to donate to is legitimate.
  • Be mindful of phishing baits from online scammers.

The NPC also advised the public to be skeptical when they receive messages urging or pressuring them to open a certain link or give out personal information including password and pin number.

“During this critical period, all our focus and efforts should go to the fight against the spread of the COVID-19 virus. We should avoid, at all costs, getting sidetracked by these digital pitfalls,” it said.

The commission urged the public to contact its complaints and investigation team through its email addresses at complaints@privacy.gov.ph and info@privacy.gov.ph if they feel that their personal data have been compromised.

Gov’t mulls emergency subsidy for middle class families

Marje Pelayo   •   April 8, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Economic managers are looking for potential sources of funds to help the middle-class families amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) crisis.

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said the national government may extend support to the middle-class sector but not under the Social Amelioration Program or the cash aid intended for low-income families or the informal sector.

Nograles explained that the list of beneficiaries of the emergency subsidy program was derived from the 15 million poor families identified by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) under the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps).

The government added three million families from the informal sector to complete the 18 million target beneficiaries of SAP under the newly signed Bayanihan to Heal as One Act.

“Naglagay po tayo ng contingency dahil hindi naman malilimitahan sa 15 million (families) iyan (na base sa) 2015 census. Ang ginawa, nagdagdag pa sila ng three million, [We applied a contingency because we couldn’t limit it to 15 million families that was based on the 2015 census. What they did was they added 3-M,]” the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) Spokesperson explained.

Based on the current statistics, the Philippines has about 24 million families.

Minus 18 million families, Nograles said, there will be about 6 million middle class families that will be provided with additional cash subsidy.

“We have to define who the middle class is [and up to what extent is being a] middle class,” the official added.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III suggests a collaboration of records from the DSWD, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE); and the local government units.

“Government assistance should cover ALL those who are affected by the lockdown,” Sotto said in a statement.

Even the middle-income needs help. Nawalan din naman sila ng pagkakitaan, nabawasan din ang kanilang source of income, [They, too, lost their source of livelihood. Their source of income has also been affected],” he added.

Sotto pushed anew for the national ID system which would provide a database that is seen to solve the government’s problem with accounting the exact number of Filipino families.

Though the IATF-EID agrees with Sotto on the matter, the agency said it would be difficult to process a national ID given the current national crisis. MNP (with details from Harlene Delgado)

Cooperation, proper execution of gov’t health interventions: Keys to stopping COVID-19 infections — Expert

Marje Pelayo   •   April 8, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Experts estimate that coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak would reach its peak between the months of April and June this year.

Based on the current statistics, they believe that COVID-19 might infect about 600,000 to 1 million Filipinos if the public will not heed the enhanced community quarantine protocols.

But there are ways to curb the contagion, according to Chief Special Adviser Dr. Ted Herbosa of the Task Force on COVID-19 Crisis.

One of which is the proper execution of the national government’s health interventions.

Herbosa said the Task Force is recommending a ‘gradual lifting of liberties of societies.’

This public measure would help communities recover from the crisis while protecting the public from further infection.

“Siguro wala pa ring pasok para hindi magkahawaan ang mga bata. Siguro ang magkaka- trabaho lang iyong essential industries – pagkain, tubig – iyong mga importanteng industry,” Herbosa explained.

[Perhaps schools should remain suspended to protect students from infection. Only workers of essential industries – food, water or other important industries – would be allowed.]

Unti-unti nilang ire-release para hindi sisipa ang pagkalat kapag ibinalik mo agad mass transport ng walang adjustment. Siguro ang mangyayari diyan let’s say sa MRT, LRT limitado ang sasakay,” he added.

[Mass transport may be released gradually or on certain adjustments to prevent a sudden spike in infection. It could be, let’s say, limited number of MRT and LRT passengers.]

The official recognized the positive contribution of the enhanced community quarantine in slowing down the spread of COVID-19.

But the success of the national government’s action against the deadly disease will only be possible if each member of the community will understand the measures and cooperate with authorities. MNP (with details from Aiko Miguel)

UK PM Johnson ‘stable’ in intensive care – Raab

UNTV News   •   April 8, 2020

British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab said on Tuesday (April 7) he was confident that Prime Minister Boris Johnson, in intensive care with a coronavirus infection, would pull through because “he’s a fighter”.

“He remained stable overnight. He’s receiving standard oxygen treatment and breathing without any assistance. He has not required any mechanical ventilation or non-invasive respiratory support,” Raab told a daily news conference.

Johnson’s personal battle with the virus has shaken the government just as the United Kingdom, now in its third week of virtual lockdown, enters what scientists say will be the deadliest phase of its coronavirus epidemic, which has already killed at least 6,159 people.

Johnson, 55, was admitted to St Thomas’ Hospital, across the River Thames from parliament, late on Sunday after suffering symptoms, including a fever and a cough, for more than 10 days.

But his condition rapidly deteriorated, and he was moved on Monday to an intensive care unit, where the most serious cases are treated, in case he needed to be put on a ventilator.

“He remains in good spirits and … his progress continues to be monitored in critical care,” Raab said. (Reuters)

(Production: Paul Warren, Aiden Nulty)

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