The Philippine National Police has urged the public to refrain from clicking on dubious links and providing personal information online as "hijack profile" scams appear to be on the rise.

The PNP Anti-Cybercrime Group (ACG) said that it has recorded 178 cases of "hijack profile" or identity theft cases from November 2023 to February 2024, half of which (89) took place in February alone.

The PNP explained in a statement that "hijack profile" scams take place when unsuspecting users' social media accounts are breached and then misused for financial or personal gain.

Once infiltrated, the hacker typically uses the account to contact the person's family and friends to pressure them into giving financial assistance using the false identity.

Hackers typically gain unauthorized access to a social media account through phishing, hacking or social engineering techniques.

In 2023, the PNP recorded nearly 3,000 cyber identity theft incidents, an increase of 14% from the previous year.

Republic Act 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 penalizes cyber identity theft with imprisonment of six to 12 years or a fine of at least P200,000 up to a maximum amount commensurate to the damage incurred or both.

In a statement, ACG chief Maj. Gen. Sidney Hernia said that social media users must use strong, unique passwords for online accounts, and enable multi-factor authentication whenever possible.

The public should also be wary of clicking on links or downloading attachments from unknown sources.

Hernia said that online users must also regularly monitor their accounts for any suspicious activity.

'If you suspect that your profile has been hijacked, immediately report it to the platform or service provider, take steps to secure your account, and notify relevant authorities to avoid potential legal liabilities that may arise from unauthorized access or misuse of your online identity,' he said.

Hernia said that netizens must also refrain from sharing unnecessary personal information online and look for "https://" in the URL when entering sensitive information on websites.


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