Scammers have developed new strategies to extract personal information and money amid the COVID-19 outbreak in Taiwan, the Taichung Police Department said on Sunday.
The department provided advice to avoid online scams amid a surge in reports of people posing as contact tracing officials or e-commerce platforms.
Scammers have developed new strategies to extract information and money, it said.
Photo: Chien Jung-fong, Taipei Times
Some pose as contact tracing officials, messaging targets to tell them that they have been listed as a contact of a confirmed case, it said.
They ask for the target’s birthdate, national identification number, family members and other information, the department said.
Contact tracing personnel do not ask for ID numbers or bank accounts, police said, adding that if in doubt, people should ask the person to identify themselves.
To avoid inadvertently spreading misinformation, people can follow the Centers for Disease Control Line account to receive the latest COVID-19-related news or call 1922 to ask about reports, the department said.
Special Act for Prevention, Relief and Revitalization Measures for Severe Pneumonia with Novel Pathogens (嚴重特殊傳染性肺炎防治及紓困振興特別條例) stipulates that individuals who spread rumors or disinformation about COVID-19 that risk harming the public interest can face a maximum prison term of three years and a possible fine of NT$3 million (US$108,292).
Scammers are also looking to take advantage of the increase in online shopping under a level 3 COVID-19 alert, the department said.
They often create simple one-page advertisements for popular products using images of celebrity “spokespeople” and directly message people to circumvent e-commerce platform rules, it said.
Such scams often have prices far below market norms and do not provide contact information, it said.
People should only use credible stores and avoid private transactions, it said.
Online transactions indirectly increase the risk of personal spending records being leaked, the department said.
Scammers can use these records to claim that a product has been mistakenly refunded or payments have been canceled to trick people into sending them money, it said.
People who receive such calls should hang up immediately and dial the 165 hotline, it added.
The National Police Agency urged people to check the recipient details of automatically generated real-name registration text messages amid reports that people have tampered with QR codes.
Scammers have been swapping government QR codes in front of stores with ones that, instead of sending a text message to 1922, send one to a number with an expensive toll, it said.
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