PLDT, Inc. and its wireless arm Smart Communications, Inc. on Sunday said spam text messages target the users of the online messaging application WhatsApp.

The group, however, does not rule out the possibility that subscribers who do not have WhatsApp accounts also receive spam text messages.

“The group’s continuing investigations revealed that the mobile numbers targeted by these spam text messages were from registered users of the online messaging platform, WhatsApp,” PLDT and Smart said in a joint statement e-mailed to reporters on Sunday.

The National Privacy Commission said last week that a global crime syndicate might be behind the recent “smishing” attacks that use text messages to trick mobile-phone users into visiting malicious websites.

Smart Communications has said it had observed a nearly three-fold increase in spam messages since June this year.

“The cybercriminals have mischievously capitalized the high unemployment rate in this pandemic to make money,” said Angel T. Redoble, the chief information security officer of PLDT and Smart’s Cyber Security Operations Group.

“To avoid falling victims of financial loss, we urge the public to delete, block, and not click on such too-good-to-be-true job offers,” he added.

The group said it had strengthened its fraud protection mechanisms by “aggressively” blocking malicious domains and activating spam-filtering systems.

“For the month of November alone, PLDT and Smart’s threat intelligence, cybersecurity and cybercrime investigation units have already blocked 19,000 mobile numbers in relation to the digital pyramiding scheme allegedly orchestrated by a global syndicate,” the group noted.

Hastings Holdings, Inc., a unit of PLDT Beneficial Trust Fund subsidiary MediaQuest Holdings, Inc., has a majority stake in BusinessWorld through the Philippine Star Group, which it controls. — Arjay L. Balinbin