MANILA, Philippines – The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) on Thursday warned the public against individuals taking advantage of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic by posing as members of contact tracing teams to extort money from their victims.
The DILG issued the warning following reports of unscrupulous individuals introducing themselves as contact tracers to scam unsuspecting victims into handing out payment for the COVID-19 test kits.
Reports of this scam came after the DILG said that more than 69,000 contact tracers have been deployed nationwide.
DILG Undersecretary and Spokesperson Jonathan Malaya said these individuals are sending messages or making calls to their victims, telling them to shell out money for the cost of a testing kit after they have been identified as a close contact of a COVID-19 patient.
“Hindi nila ibibigay ang impormasyon about the alleged person na nag-positive [for COVID-19], sasabihin nila na they will violate privacy laws kuno,” Malaya said in a statement.
Despite the limited information given, the scammer will insist on having the victim tested within the next 72 hours.
The victim will then be asked for their address where the supposed testing kits will be sent.
“Pagtawag nila sa isang bahay, they will advise the person to self-isolate at magpa-test within 72 hours. Siyempre ito namang biktima will agree to undergo testing,” he said. “Kapag naibigay mo na ang address mo, dito na sila magsisimula sa kanilang modus.”
He said scammers will then ask for their credit card number or other financial details saying that the test kits cost $50 each.
“Yun na yung catch, matapos makuha yung address ng biktima, bigla nila ngayon itong sisingilin at sasabihing hindi libre ang test kit,” he said.
“Kapag tumanggi naman yung tao, pagbabantaan sila na they will face penalties for not undergoing the coronavirus test,” he added.
Malaya said legitimate contact tracing teams will never ask for money since their task is to track down and manage close contacts, reduce the spread of infection, and offer diagnostic, counselling and treatment to confirmed COVID-19 cases.
“We ask the public to be vigilant. Huwag po tayong basta-basta magtitiwala sa mga taong tatawag o magtetext para humingi ng pera. Pag may pera na po sa usapan, scam na po iyan,” he said.
The DILG spokesperson advised the public to immediately report such incident to the nearest police station or call the DILG through Hotline 911 and the DILG-Public Assistance and Complaint Center at 8925-0343.
“We are currently beefing up our contact tracing capabilities nationwide to serve more Filipinos for free kaya hinihikayat po natin ang ating mga kababayan na ireport po ang ganitong mga panloloko sa mga kinauukulan,” Malaya said.
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