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Scam calls, messages in Taiwan up 488% in 2020

Public cautioned against unknown numbers starting with ‘+’

(Facebook, Whoscall photo)

(Facebook, Whoscall photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwan saw an alarming 488 percent increase in the number of scam calls and scam text messages detected last year, according to a report released Tuesday (Feb. 2) by Taiwanese caller ID and number management mobile application Whoscall.

The annual report shows that global phishing attempts became more prevalent during the coronavirus pandemic. Over 280 million scam calls and text messages worldwide were blocked by Whoscall in 2020, up 190 percent from 2019, with fraudulent messages accounting for 80 percent of the increase.

During the same 12-month period, Taiwan observed a record 14 million mobile phishing attacks, with cross-border fraud being the main cause of the rise. The country also suffered two major phone call attacks from Tunisia and Nauru and one text attack from Japan.

The report found that Whoscall users on average received 797.4 phone calls from unknown numbers in 2020, including 517.8 from local businesses, 274.8 from telemarketers, and 4.8 from scammers. It noted that fraudulent calls and text messages were more likely to occur on weekdays than during the weekend.

Whoscall has urged the public not to answer calls or text messages from numbers beginning with a plus sign (+), which indicates the callers are from abroad. It also warned against clicking on unverified links in text messages to avoid the risk of exposure to malware.