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July 23, 2017

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CIB must up efforts to combat telephone and Internet scams

In the first four months of this year, 497 alleged short message service (SMS) scams were reported, swindling phone users out of as much as NT$3.15 million. As more and more people use their smartphones for financial transactions, it is little wonder that fraud groups are using text messages and messaging applications to steal money from unsuspecting members of the public. The Criminal Investigation Bureau (CIB, 刑事警察局) must step up its efforts to crack down on phone and Internet fraud rings.

In one recently reported scam, fake couriers sent texts asking cell phone users to collect parcels. The instant messages contained a link that, if opened, would allow the sender to access the NT$5,000 credit telecom companies provide for online purchases. Last year, 272 people were defrauded of a total of NT$2.45 million using the same technique. Another common practice was scammers pretending to be employees of a local phone carrier attempting to persuade users to pay overdue phone bills that did not exist. Some text messages also included invitations to view "photos from our last gathering." If you click on such links, you basically lose control of your phone even though it remains in your hand.

Why is it that some telecom companies still haven't changed their online credit practices despite orders to do so from the National Communications Commission (NCC) in September last year? How come so many people are willing to wire money to bogus bank accounts without a second thought? The truth is that victims are not only unaware of regulations stipulated in their phone carrier's contract, but they are also left without enough time to think. It is up to the CIB to improve efforts against phone and Internet scammers, firstly by increasing awareness of such scams.

It is unfortunate that most people don't seem to know about the 165 Hotline established in 2004 by police authorities under the supervision of the Ministry of the Interior (MOI) in response to the need to provide a standard, convenient and efficient way to deal with these kinds of scams. Although scam techniques have changed over the years, the first thing people need to do is report strange text messages or phone calls to police through the 165 Hotline so that officers can check suspicious bank accounts and block any money that has previously been wired. It may sound obvious to say this, but the sooner you make a report the better.

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