Friday, February 02, 2007

Scams Again

There's a strain of thought that argues that Taiwan's international status is really not a big issue -- the island can pursue some postmodern, Stainless Steel Rat status. I was reflecting on that today while watching the Rebar case shenanigans, as fugitive tycoon Wang You-theng, dodging Taiwan police, left Singapore for the US, once again out of reach of the impotent Taiwan government officials who cannot do anything because they lack diplomatic standing.

Little people too are affected by the lack of diplomatic status, and nowhere more than in the activities of the infamous scammers who are based in China but who operate in conjunction with local Taiwan gangsters. They prey on the old, always attempting to create panic in them, so that they will unthinkingly turn over account data to the scammers, who then clean it out.

My mother in law, almost 70, told me she gets at least one scam phone call each day, but today she got a beaut that caught even her hardened self. The caller identified himself as a "telephone company policeman" who told her that her personal data had been hijacked by scammers and used to open a bogus phone account for scammers. The caller had all her data, including her national ID number, account numbers, and phone account history. He explained that he needed some additional data, including amounts of money, as well as the ability to access the accounts, so that in the event that the police froze them for being involved in a scam, she could get them unfrozen and continue to use the money. My mother in law fell for it hook, line, and sinker, and only the timely arrival of my sister in law stopped her from giving everything up to the scammers.

Someone pointed out to me the other day that the scammer problem is an excellent political issue that the DPP could make progress on. There's nothing to be done about the lack of cooperation from our obdurate neighbor across the Taiwan Strait, but surely the government could start an all-out program of education and warning. Every day the papers are filled with tales of retirees cheated out of a lifetime of savings. It's time this nonsense was stopped by cutting off the supply of victims, even if we can't reach the perps.

1 comment:

Patrick Cowsill said...

My wife got one the other day. The "phone company" said that we had a second phone line in Sanchong now, and that we'd have to pay the bill plus pay an additional fee to shut it down. My wife was wondering why, if the phone company was so stupid to open this second line without our authorization, they expected us to pay?

My father-in-law got one a few years back, when my wife and I were living in the States, saying that they had kidnapped her and taken her down south. There was even someone crying on the other end of the line.

My father-in-law sensed something was up: Why would they go to all the trouble to go to Ohio to get my wife? And why would they kidnap her when none of us had any money? So he started talking English and they promptly hung up.