VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Story on SSS giving members P20k amid COVID-19 outbreak NOT TRUE

A false report by a website with a history of producing disinformation is being shared by netizens, claiming all Social Security System (SSS) members will receive P20,000 as financial aid from Pres. Rodrigo Duterte following work disruption because of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Randomnames.club, flagged earlier this month by VERA Files Fact Check for authoring a misleading rape-slay case story, published the untrue, undated report titled, “P20,000 Para sa Lahat ng Miyembo ng SSS Pangtawid dahil sa Covid-19.Inaprobahan ng Pangulo (P20,000 for all members of SSS as aid due to COVID-19. Approved by the President).”

SSS has made no announcement it is distributing P20,000-worth of financial aid to its members. The government agency in fact published on March 18 on its official FB page a post refuting the website's viral report, calling it “fake news” and advising Filipinos to “be observant” and to not let themselves get fooled by disinformation.

The site’s fallacious article was a skewed take on a March 12 report by the Department of Finance (DOF), where Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III was quoted as saying that SSS President and CEO Aurora Cruz Ignacio “assured” him the agency is ready to pay the unemployment benefits of workers affected by the “economic fallout” of the health emergency.

In the DOF report, Cruz Ignacio said SSS was ready to shell out from P660 million to P1.2 billion for as many as 60,000 people under a “worst-case scenario,” with each member receiving a maximum of P20,000 each from the state-run insurance agency for private employees.

The false report is already dubious at first glance: it bears the timestamp “Published Today,” but it does not change despite the passage of time. The untrue story also came with an outdated clip which, when opened on YouTube, shows a 48-minute-long April 2016 video uploaded on SSS’s official channel about the institution’s support for overseas Filipino workers.

The embedded copy of the video on randomnames.club stops playing after two seconds, and prompts its viewers to first share the story on FB before they could continue watching -- a technique that VERA Files Fact Check has observed to be used by producers of death hoaxes and other false, clickbait stories.

Randomnames.club’s report is brimming with advertisements that take up more than half of the landing page’s space. Creators of disinformation utilize ads to generate profit from the hoaxes they create.

The site’s Homepage leads to an Error 404 page while its Contact Us page does not contain any telephone number, email address, or any contact information. Instead, it carries a link to a script that will supposedly allow others to replicate the fake website, among others. Its Privacy Policy tab also only carries text placeholders.

Navigating through the website’s tabs also shows that the site’s name changes in every time one switches between tabs. One of the variations even made use of a legitimate organization’s name and logo: Freedom of the Press Foundation.

The viral, misleading report was widely shared as the country's COVID-19 cases continued to rise. It got almost 9,400 reactions from netizens on FB. It could have also reached over 10.8 million social media users, with public FB groups SSS(E-1 & Static Report), PhilHealth(MDR), PagIbig(MID no.), POEA(OEC form), Raffy/Ben/Erwin tulfo brothers fans, and Raffy Tulfo In Action Supporters‎ bringing the most traffic to the report.

Randomnames.club was created on September 19, 2019.

(Editor's Note: VERA Files has partnered with Facebook to fight the spread of disinformation. Find out more about this partnership and our methodology.)

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