The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) is warning the public against conmen taking advantage of the COVID-19 crisis who introduce themselves as alleged members of Contact Tracing Teams to scam unsuspecting victims into handing out payment for coronavirus test kits.
DILG Undersecretary and Spokesperson Jonathan Malaya said that there are unscrupulous individuals posing as Contact Tracers who are sending text messages or making calls telling people that they have been identified as close contact of an alleged COVID patient and that they need to shell out money for the cost of a testing kit.
He said that 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. We are in a public health emergency and unfortunately ay mayroon pa ring mga mapagsamantala who are taking advantage of the crisis kaya doble ingat po tayo,” he adds.
Malaya said that reports from DILG Region III indicate that certain individuals pretending to be members of a contact tracing team were calling households telling them that they were identified as close contact of a person who has tested positive with COVID-19. “Hindi nila ibibigay ang impormasyon about the alleged person na nag-positive [for COVID-19], sasabihin nila na they will violate privacy laws kuno,” he added.
He said that despite the limited information given, the scammer will insist on having the victim tested within the next 72 hours. “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 says.
The caller will then ask for the address of the victim where the supposed testing kits will be sent. “Kapag naibigay mo na ang address mo, dito na sila magsisimula sa kanilang modus,” Malaya says.
The DILG Spokesperson explains that after getting the victim’s address, the 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. Inuulit ko po, hindi po naniningil ng bayad ang mga contact tracing team. Hindi po nila ‘yan trabaho,” he says.
“Kapag tumanggi naman yung tao, pagbabantaan sila na they will face penalties for not undergoing the coronavirus test,” he adds.
In case of such incidents, Malaya advises the public, “Huwag po kayong matakot magsumbong.” He urges all would-be victims to report immediately 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.
“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,” he says.
The DILG recently confirmed that more than 69,000 contact tracers are now deployed nationwide with a possibility of adding 50,000 more in the next few weeks. He also directed barangays to establish their own community contact tracing teams.