President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday lauded a cross-strait agreement on judicial assistance signed last year, saying it had helped dramatically reduce phone scams.
Since Taipei and Beijing signed an accord on mutual judicial assistance and cross-strait cooperation on fighting crime in June last year, more than 3,000 criminal suspects or fugitives had been sent back from China and phone scams had showed a significant decline, the president said.
“Thanks to mutual cooperation, both Taiwanese and Chinese swindlers have had a hard time making deceiving telephone calls,” Ma said.
Ma made the remarks while meeting volunteer traffic controllers and community patrols at the Presidential Office yesterday morning.
Ma said volunteer police had helped police forces crack 106 cases of phone scams between January last year and this month.
According to National Police Agency statistics, there were 17,862 fraud cases reported in the first seven months of this year, down 22 percent compared with the same period last year. Though these reflect all cases of reported fraud, the decline was similar for scam calls, officials said.
Ma also said he had heard from friends that they “clearly had the feeling” that the number of scam phone calls had fallen.
As telephone scams were a new kind of crime, Ma said the public seemed to have become more vigilant following the government’s aggressive efforts to curb such illegal acts.
“However, it baffles me why some people are still fooled by the tricks,” the president said, adding that some of the victims were civil servants or individuals with high levels of education.
While the problem of phone scams has yet to be rooted out — a challenge that is exacerbated by the fact that criminals operate on both sides of the Taiwan Strait and with judicial cooperation still in the nascent stages — Ma urged the public to remain alert as criminals “have a finger in every pie.”
ANGRY OR AMUSED
Because of the prevalence of phone scams, Ma said he did not know whether to “feel angry or amused” when the Presidential Office called up disadvantaged groups to express concern about their situation, but those receiving the phone call thought it was some kind of scam.
The president said their reaction might be a good thing because people seem to be more careful when receiving suspicious phone calls.
“When you have more phone scams, trust among the public gradually collapses,” he said.
Meanwhile, with the Mid-Autumn Festival approaching, Ma yesterday called on the public to purchase moon cakes from bakeries run by physically and mentally challenged people.
This year’s Mid-Autumn Festival falls on Sept. 22.
Additional reporting by CNA and Staff Writer