THE Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) has urged local government units (LGUs) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) to be more vigilant against scammers as it warned the public anew against persons posing as Department of Health (DOH) contact tracers and extorting money from their victims.
DILG Secretary Eduardo M. Año said the LGUs and the PNP should constantly be on the lookout 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 said 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 yesterday , the DOH warned the public against certain individuals misrepresenting themselves as members of the DOH Contact Tracing Team.
According to the DOH, these con artists ask for personal information and extort money in the process.
The advisory urged the public to be vigilant and not entertain these calls.
The DOH also reminded 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.
The DILG Secretary warend the public against the 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 explained
Año 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 they have bedn identified as close contacts of a person who has tested positive for COVID-19.
Later on, reports said the fake contact tracers 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,” Ano said.
He also encouraged the public 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 not giving personal information and end the call; taking note of the number and block it; and reporting the incident to DOH’s Call Center Hotline through telephone number (632) 8651-7800 local 5003-5004 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.