When a former official of the LTO reaches out to squeal on the LTO, I can’t help but listen, especially when the person’s report or “sumbong” confirms a payola system in “some” LTO offices in Metro Manila and the fact that other current LTO officials have heard of those “rumors” and allegations of corruptions. A week or so ago, a friend of mine connected me with a former LTO official who wanted to report what he considered as an intolerable level of corruption, where two LTO officials from two different offices reportedly collect a daily “tong” from stencil aides, vendors and runners (fixers) in their area of operations.
According to the former official, the two officials collect as much as P1,000 to P1,500 each daily from the small people who eke out a living helping car owners register their vehicles or do the leg work for them. This is allegedly all part of a scheme where those who pay the “tong” get their share or “rebate” from the mandatory TPL or Third-Party Liability insurance that they bring into the agency concerned. These TPL policies are often bought on-site and presumably gives an incentive to people who bring in customers. Those who do not pay the tong or meet the weekly quota don’t get any rebates from TPL policies they sell. Sadly, the little people can’t complain because their primary concern is to make a living inside the LTO compound and don’t want to be kicked out or blacklisted, so they went to the ex-LTO official.
When I asked around, it seems that these stories have made the rounds in LTO circles recently except at the office of the LTO chief. This practice is apparently not as isolated as I imagined it to be, which explains why people have not openly talked about it. It also explains why in spite of the LTO’s claims that they have pushed out “fixers,” people are still approached in several LTO districts. But as far as the former LTO official was concerned, he could not stomach the idea that a couple of his former associates would stoop so low and take a cut from people who barely made a living. From what I know the “sumbong” was brought to the attention of Regional Director Clarence Guinto, who has called in people for “interview.”
While the Ex-LTO official’s heart bleeds for the little people, I on the other hand would suggest to the LTO and perhaps members of Congress and the Senate to investigate the backyard industries where millions are made from TPL commissions and stenciling requirements that are so out-dated and accomplishes nothing since VIN numbers and engine numbers are clearly visible and since registration of carnap vehicles hardly occur, given it is more profitable to chop up stolen vehicles for parts. I guess the reason all these requirements are there is because it is an LTO backyard industry!
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In case you ever find yourself going to a Globe store to request for a new SIM card or SIM replacement or subscribe with their various mobile services, chances are you will discover two new things that have recently been introduced to increase customer security and protection. After riding the tiger due to the “Identity Theft” story we published in this column, we were informed by Miss Kiss Ekong, the head for Retail Sales Operations for Globe Philippines, during her guesting on our program AGENDA that their company has decided to immediately adopt the two suggestions that we put forward to help reduce mobile-based identity theft or fraud, namely photo or image capture of all Globe customers that will be included in their customer profile and security reference and a 24- to 48-hour cooling period before the telco acts on a request for SIM card replacement or stolen phone reports.
The photo on file and stored by Globe will be readily available to all their stores in the event that such requests or questionable transactions pop-up. On the other hand, the 24- to 48-hour cooling period will prevent the automatic cut off of an existing line or take over by SIM swap criminals as well as give Globe enough time to contact their subscriber or track and investigate a phone reported as stolen.
We also had cyber security analyst Art Samaniego on the program, who commented that the 24- to 48-hour cooling period was actually used by authorities in Mozambique to stop widespread SIM swap scams and that it was very effective. So, if the people at your local Globe office asks to take your picture, please smile for the camera and bear in mind it is meant to protect your interest and your identity!
Still on the topic of scams, I received a letter from one of our readers “Ms. Flor” about how their email messages were hacked and how hackers had altered certain email addresses to make it appear that Ms. Flor’s company was dealing with the intended party they were doing business with. The hackers, it turns out, were part of a larger group that had targeted government emails and suppliers. Unlike the credit card criminals, these recent groups focused on people with small transactions, small amounts between vendors or suppliers and buyers.
The strategy is that people are less cautious with a few hundred dollars or euros than they would be if the amounts involved thousands of dollars or euros. Sadly, some businesses also don’t bother to go after the criminals because it would cost them more to do so. The diversion of small amounts is also less likely to trigger an alarm in most banks until it’s too late and, last but not least, hijacking or phishing is easier and less risky than undertaking the two-pronged identity theft that we featured last week.
Nonetheless, after the articles came out, we have been receiving a steady stream of complaints from people wanting to share their horror stories with telcos and different banks. Please protect yourself.