Crack down on phishing scams

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Crack down on phishing scams

Voice phishing scams do not just take a financial toll on people. One victim in her 30s had a miscarriage from the shock of being defrauded out of her money. One housewife in her 40s cannot sleep because she is haunted by the voice on the phone. A man in his 50s suffers from depression after falling prey to a phishing scam. All the victims interviewed by the JoongAng Ilbo spoke of suffering severe psychological stress and the pain caused by various types of fraud and theft via phones or mobile devices. Financial damages are severe, and nearly 5,000 victims are reported every year.

Citizen’s lives and privacy are violently intruded upon and wrecked by modern-day fraudsters. People fear picking up their phones or opening emails or text messages. Financial fraud and theft wreak havoc on the credit foundation of a society and spread a dangerous epidemic of mistrust. Law enforcement authorities must deal with them as one of the biggest threats to our society.

But these e-grifters are not easy to hunt down and catch because many are based overseas, mostly in China. The Korean government - with the help of the local Chinese police - caught one ringleader of a hacking and financial fraudulent criminal organization. But such cases are quite rare. We cannot simply wait around for help from China.

What needs to be fixed first is the light penalties facing online and phone scammers - just a fine of 1 million to 2 million won ($934 to $1,868). Voice phishing and other financial scams start with stolen bank accounts. The government must revise the financial transaction law to levy heavier punishments on the illegal issuance of bank accounts. Banks also must regularly check on transactions to comb out suspicious accounts.

The orchestrators and callers of financial schemes are not physically far away. The devious voices are everywhere and near our homes. These schemers change locations and run their criminal organizations locally. The police must offer bigger rewards to people who report on suspicious groups of people and businesses in office buildings.

Our society is in serious danger. Law enforcement authorities must take more aggressive actions to protect people’s lives and property from these modern-day thieves.

JoongAng Ilbo, March 4, Page 30

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