Authorities in the United States have warned smartphone users about phishing attacks as text messages about COVID-19 contract tracing circulate.

The message reads, “Someone who came in contact with you tested positive or has shown symptoms for COVID-19 and recommends you to self-isolate/get tested. After this, a link was included in the message which the US police told the public not to click as this will allow hackers to have access on a user’s smartphone.

While there aren’t known reports about the same scam text message in the Philippines, phishing attacks have been prevalent in the country.

In fact, the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) assigned to lead the government’s action plans against coronavirus, has detected a 100 percent increase in phishing attacks in the country during the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine which President Rodrigo Duterte declared on March 17.

“The National Bureau of Investigation-Cybercrime Division and the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas report a 100% increase in phishing,” IATF Spokesperson Karlo Nograles said.

Nograles has also reminded Filipino internet and smartphone users “to be cautious with their bank details.”

Nograles furthered that everyone should be wary of scammers pretending to be bank employees as this is the common modus operandi.

“Bali ang modus operandi ng phishing ay may mga taong magpapanggap na empleyado sila ng banko mo at hihingin nila ang detalye ng account mo tulad ng account number at password,” Nograles said.

“Huwag niyo pong ibigay ‘yang mga ‘yan. Hindi po hihingin ng bangko niyo yan kahit kailanan kahit sa anong pagkakataon,” he added.

Over the past weeks, the PNP-Anti Cybercrime Division has been monitoring the spread of text and email scams. The said department of the national police is also actively looking for those who spread not just false information, but allegedly also those who air their criticisms over social media about the government’s response to the pandemic.

Instead of putting more time and effort in silencing the critics, the government and the police should focus more on addressing the rise in the number of cyber attacks in the country as hackers take advantage of the unrest brought by the pandemic.


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