Taiwan’s front-line battle in opposition to cell phone fraud

Jeff KuoJeff Kuo

Telecoms safety boss Jeff Kuo says that combating cell phone fraud is a continuing battle, and that Taiwan is on the entrance line.

“This is like a miniature of the world, here in Taiwan, where we see all kinds of fraud in advance,” says Mr Kuo. “We can use this knowledge to protect other countries, because we can see what is going to happen first.”

Mr Kuo is boss of Taiwanese agency Gogolook, which owns Whoscall, one of the standard spam blocking apps on the island, and throughout East Asia usually.

It says its synthetic intelligence powered software program continually trawls greater than 1.6 billion phone numbers, each Taiwanese ones, and in addition ones from throughout Asia and different components of the world, to dam messages and calls from possible fraudsters.

A Person Using The Whoscall App


Working with Taiwan’s Criminal Investigation Bureau’s (CIB’s) “195 Anti-Fraud Program”, Whoscall blocked greater than 122 million rip-off messages final 12 months in Taiwan alone.

But why is Taiwan such a hotbed for telecoms fraud? Mr Kuo says the island’s small inhabitants of 23.5 million makes it a prefect “practice ground” for organised criminals, each Taiwanese gangs and people from mainland China and elsewhere. They check out a brand new telephone rip-off in Taiwan, and if it really works there then they’ll develop it out throughout Asia after which globally.

“[For example], we provide Apple with a lot of evidence… until they realise there is a serious problem,” says Mr Kuo. “A problem that is not only going to spread out in Taiwan, but also in Asia Pacific, and if they don’t take care of it, very soon it will be in Europe and the US.”

CIB telecoms fraud investigator Jean Hsiao Ya-yun tells the BBC that one more reason why so many new scams originate on the island is the actual fact that Taiwan is one in all Asia’s high producers of high-tech know-how. She says this stage of technical experience is shared by Taiwanese scammers.

Ms Hsiao provides that the coronavirus pandemic was a increase time for scammers as hundreds of thousands of individuals have been caught at home, and, subsequently, extra reliant upon their telephones.

“And the Taiwan stock market was very high at the time, so many people earned a lot of money,” she says, including that this led to an enormous rise in funding scams.

“Scammers would [for example] give advice on app pages, or they would start a chat group saying that they can tell you when a stock is going to rise, and they can share this intel if you join their group.”

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The scammers would then ask for cash for the data. Other such funding scams would see individuals receiving telephone message from pleasant strangers providing loans at very low charges.

Such is the extent of the legal networks behind the scamming that some Taiwanese gangs have opened up operations abroad. Ms Hsiao factors to at least one case from 2020 when 92 Taiwanese individuals have been arrested in Montenegro.

In different circumstances, Taiwanese individuals are lured abroad to nations reminiscent of Cambodia underneath the false promise of excessive wages. There they’re pressured to work in opposition to their will as phone fraudsters, because the BBC reported in September.

Mr Kuo admits that there’s a “weapons race” between anti-fraud corporations like his, and the fraudsters. And whereas Whoscall and comparable apps block hundreds of thousands of messages and telephone calls, some nonetheless get by.

Anyone who has lived in Taiwan, no matter age or nationality, is accustomed to one methodology utilized by fraudsters – burst dialling. Answering an unknown quantity results in you listening to a quick dialling sound, after which a pre-recorded message begins enjoying.

These calls are made by auto-dial programs able to making a whole bunch a minute. It’s an efficient manner for the fraudsters to seek out the working numbers of people who find themselves ready to reply their telephone regardless of not figuring out who’s ringing them.

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Taiwanese cyber safety skilled TonTon Huang says that when such an individual has been discovered, scammers name again.

“If [they find] the number is used by someone, they will sell the active phone data, or tell you that you need to pay a loan, insurance payment, or remit money,” he says. “The most common one seems to be about instalment payments, like you shopped online and you need to pay in instalments or something.”

While scammers are sometimes on the lookout for older individuals who may not be accustomed to know-how or sustain with rip-off developments, the CIB’s Ms Hsiao says they nonetheless dupe loads of younger adults as effectively.

Earlier this 12 months, a 20-something Taiwanese YouTuber Edison Lin posted a video on the platform by which he emotionally revealed that he had been a sufferer of phone fraud.

He had been conned out of $13,000 [£12,600] by two fraudsters working collectively.

Mr Lin mentioned it occurred after he was known as by somebody pretending to an worker of a restaurant he had visited just a few months earlier. The man informed him that he had accidently been overcharged by $380, and that he can be supplied help to get the cash again.

After Mr Lin had ended that decision he was quickly telephoned once more, this time by the opposite fraudster pretending to from his financial institution.

“When the [fake] clerk from E.Sun Bank called, he knew the whole story, he told me how to get compensation from E.Sun,” Mr Lin mentioned in his video. “His professionalism made me think he was really a bank clerk.

“Before lengthy we have been speaking backwards and forwards for half an hour… and I seen one in all them was transferring [my] cash… I nonetheless have not paid off the debt.”

Prof Sandra Wachter, a senior research fellow in AI at Oxford University, is a global expert on the use of AI software systems.

She says AI can be an effective tool in defending against telecoms and other tech-based fraud, but that the general public also needs to be better educated about the risks.

Prof Sandra Wachter

Sandra Wachter

“Technology is getting used to scale-up fraud makes an attempt… it permits scammers to forged a wider internet and work extra effectively,” she says. “At the identical time, some individuals is likely to be extra gullible and susceptible to deceit as a result of texting or calls appear legit, particularly if executed in convincing and complicated methods.

“Since fraud is scaling up, the strategy to combat these attempts must too scale up and so it makes sense to deploy AI software for this purpose.

“The query is how efficient these makes an attempt are, and if we can totally cease this behaviour? And the reply is, most likely not, however we are able to curb it quickly. Digital literacy and training may help individuals to not fall into the entice. AI may help to detect these scams and intervene.”

Back at spam-blocking app Whoscall, Jeff Kuo agrees, saying fighting fraudsters “could also be unending, however so is our willpower to sharpen our expertise and rise up”.