MANILA — The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) urges local government units (LGUs) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) to be more vigilant against scammers as it warns the public anew against persons posing as Department of Health (DOH) contact tracers extorting money from unsuspecting victims.
DILG Secretary Eduardo M. Año says that the LGUs and the PNP should constantly be on the look-out for scammers amid the COVID-19 pandemic as these opportunistic criminals will take advantage of the fear and panic of people for their own gains.
“Isa pang virus na kailangan pag-ingatan ng mga tao ang mga scammer na ito na sumasabay pa at nakukuhang manamantala ng kapwa ngayong krisis at ito ngang sa DOH ang pinaka-recent. I urge all LGUs and our men and women of the PNP immediately investigate these criminal activities,” Año said. “Hindi na kayo [scammers] naawa sa mga kababayang nating niloloko ninyo,” he adds.
The DILG chief says that extortion and scam cases are slowly increasing as more victims are coming forward. “The public must beware. ‘Wag po tayong magpaloko sa mga ito,” he said.
In an advisory released by the DOH yesterday, it warned the public of certain individuals misrepresenting themselves as members of the DOH Contact Tracing Team.
According to the DOH, these con artists are maliciously asking for personal information and extorting money in the process. The public is advised to be vigilant and not entertain these calls. The DOH reminds the public that it does not have a contact tracing team and “to verify basic information and ensure that they have been referred by your Barangay Health Emergency Response Teams (BHERTs).”
Año said the Contact Tracing Teams are led by the Local Government Unit and are supervised by the Department of the Interior and Local Government.
“We condemn the perpetrators of these acts and warn the public against individuals who are taking advantage of this health crisis. The DOH will take appropriate legal action, as necessary. The Department has since coordinated with the Philippine National Police and the National Bureau of Investigation to investigate the matter,” the DOH said.
Report cases of extortion
The DILG Secretary is warning the public against these extortionists who are “banking on fear and panic amid the COVID-19 crisis.” “Ito pong kaso ng scamming at panloloko na ginamit ang DOH ay isa lamang po sa mga modus ng mga walang-awang kriminal na ito kaya patuloy po ang pagpapaalala natin sa ating mga kababayan na mag-ingat at huwag basta maniwala at magpaloko,” Año explains.
Año has recently cautioned the public against individuals pretending to be members of a contact tracing team who were calling and sending messages to households telling them that they were identified as close contacts of a person who has tested positive with COVID-19. Later on, reports say that they would try to extort money for the cost of test kits once personal information were given to them.
“Inuulit ko po, hinding-hindi po hihingi ng pera ang mga contact tracing teams for 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. ‘Yun lamang po,” he says.
He then encourages them to immediately report suspicious calls of the same nature to the nearest police station or PNP unit or call the DILG through Hotline 911 and the DILG-Public Assistance and Complaint Center at 8925-0343.
Meanwhile, the DOH also advised the public to follow the safety protocols if they find themselves in the same situation which include: Do not give out your personal information and end the call; Take note of the number and block it; and, Report the incident to DOH’s Call Center Hotline through telephone number (632) 8651-7800 local 5003-5004 or email email@example.com.