South Korea sees rise in smishing with coronavirus misinformation

The South Korean government has warned the public of a sharp rise in smishing attempts – scam text messages – that use misinformation about the novel coronavirus outbreak.

As of February 15, 9,688 smishing texts had been sent that used false information on the novel coronavirus, the Ministry of Science and ICT, South Korean police, and the country’s financial regulator said Monday in a joint statement.

These texts claim to provide free masks or pretend to be companies that have experienced delays in deliveries due to the coronavirus in order to scam people out of their private information.

165 phone calls have also been made, using fake numbers, claiming they were health authorities to scam people for money and information.

There was also one extreme voice phishing attempt where the scammer made a fraudulent call to a restaurant claiming they had the virus and recently dined there, and demanded money for not alerting the authorities.

The government said it would work with local telcos to alert the public about such scams. They will also delete numbers that have been used for phishing once they are detected, as well as block any URLs used.

Those who believe they have fallen victim to such attacks have been advised to call their respective telcos to block their numbers from being abused for such scams, the Ministry said.

The government added that it would make sure to protect the official phone numbers of health authorities from being manipulated.

The global outbreak of the coronavirus has caused MWC to be cancelled after myriad companies withdrew from the event. Other events such as Black Hat Asia and Cisco Live Melbourne have also been either postponed or cancelled as a result of the outbreak.