Korean aided Chinese phone cheats

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Korean aided Chinese phone cheats

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Seoul police arrested seven Koreans who helped a Chinese phone-swindling ring cheat people in Korea out of billions of won.

The Chinese swindlers would call average Koreans and identify themselves as representatives of government agencies like the National Tax Service, the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office, the Ministry of Justice and the Financial Supervisory Service. Victims were told they owed overdue taxes or fines and were given bank account numbers to make the payments.

The Koreans’ role was to route the phone calls in a way that they appeared to be coming from within Korea and to alter the caller ID numbers that showed on victims’ phones to actual numbers of government agencies.

According to the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency yesterday, a 37-year-old Korean surnamed Lee founded a company in China in February and contracted five unlicensed networking companies in Korea to route the calls. The Korean companies offered services to change the caller ID numbers on Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) calls, a technique used for “vishing,” or voice phishing.

Lee advertised his services on Web sites and was hired by a Chinese ring in March. Lee installed Internet telephones in the Chinese call center and connected them with the five unlicensed Korean companies.

Phone numbers with the prefix 070 were changed to 02 on caller IDs to look like they originated from Seoul. The remaining numbers were changed to the actual phone numbers of government agencies.

According to the police, many victims checked the numbers on their caller IDs and concluded the calls were genuine demands from government agencies.

Police said that the Chinese swindlers got 2 billion won ($1.75 million) from 145 Koreans in August alone, and those calls accounted for 19.7 percent of all the voice phishing in Korea that month.

The police indicted Lee on charges of aiding and abetting the scammers and six people from the five Korean networking companies on charges of violating the Telecommunications Business Act.

“As the Internet telephone business is easily started with small sums of capital, small, unlicensed companies are sprouting up,” police said yesterday.

Police also warned consumers about trusting the phone numbers showing on their caller IDs.

“Under the current system, we can’t know if a call is disguised or not,” a spokesman said.

To combat voice phishing, the Korea Communications Commission yesterday said it will propose a bill to the National Assembly that would force local telecommunications companies to launch a system that automatically stops international calls from being disguised as domestic ones.


By Kim Hee-jin [heejin@joongang.co.kr]
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