More victims of phishing suffering severe anxiety

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More victims of phishing suffering severe anxiety

In September of last year, Mrs. Kim, a 33-year-old housewife who was three months pregnant at the time, received a curious phone call from an unknown number.

The man identified himself as a prosecutor and demanded Kim’s bank account number and her password, claiming that an account using Kim’s name had been discovered by investigators during a crackdown on an online gambling site.

Taken aback and confused, she gave the self-professed prosecutor the information for which he asked.

A few minutes after she hung up the phone, Kim realized she may have been duped and rushed to the bank to check her account, in which she had 67 million won ($62,578).

But by then, only 20 million won remained. As it turned out, the mysterious caller had transferred 47 million won from her account to an offshore account that couldn’t be tracked.

The incident shattered Kim’s family, and the next day she suffered a miscarriage. Since the incident, she has suffered from depression and severe anxiety, and still receives psychiatric treatment.

But Kim is just one of many found to be suffering from a range of severe anxiety disorders brought on by financial loss from fraudulent scams.

As the number of voice phishing cases has risen in recent years - exacerbated by frequent personal information leaks - the number of people who have fallen victim to fraudulent scams and suffered from depression and anxiety has also increased.

According to the National Police Agency, nearly 37,000 voice phishing crimes were committed over a six-year period, from 2008 through 2013, and it is estimated that between 40,000 and 50,000 people have fallen prey to those scams.

Another woman surnamed Kim, 40, a housewife, also lost millions in a voice phishing scheme last April. But even though it has been almost a year now since she was swindled out of 93 million won, Kim said in an interview with the JoongAng Ilbo that she still suffers from auditory hallucinations of the caller’s voice at night and was diagnosed with manic depression.

“More and more these days, I tend to direct my anger at my family,” she said.

Insomnia is another common aftereffect, according to health experts.

Park, a 40-year-old housewife, wired 12 million won to a man who called her on Feb. 21 claiming to have abducted her husband and threatening to cut off her husband’s finger unless she paid the ransom.

Park told the JoongAng Ilbo that she now has severe insomnia and suffers from auditory hallucinations of the caller’s voice.

Dr. Im Ji-seon, a psychiatrist at Seoul National University Hospital, advised that those close to victims of voice phishing and other crimes should never chastise them for falling for such schemes.

“People who suffered financial damages because of threats in voice phishing schemes go through an overwhelming sense of fear in post-stress,” Im said. “If people criticize them for losing money, their stress level will only increase. Family members must refrain from doing that.”

BY LEE SANG-HWA [jkkang2@joongang.co.kr]


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