In spite of efforts, voice phishers still hard to catch

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In spite of efforts, voice phishers still hard to catch

When a loan fraud team from the Siheung Police Precinct raided a Daegu office on March 6 last year and caught six voice phishers at the makeshift call center, the authorities considered it a small but significant victory. Those behind such scams - in which perpetrators target their victims over the phone in an attempt to access their financial information - are often elusive and nearly impossible to trace or monitor.

In the office, police found scripts for a variety of scenarios, which the callers used in their schemes. They arrested the man in charge, only identified by his surname Kim, on the suspicion of stealing approximately 136 million won ($126,833) from 43 victims, and investigated 13 other workers there, including middle managers.

This particular raid was a rarity. In most of the 14,745 voice phishing cases recorded from 2011 until 2013, only bottom-rung fraudsters within the companies were apprehended. And in only 20 cases, or 0.1 percent, did the police actually make arrests in call centers run by the leaders of voice phishing gangs.

One of the main reasons why it’s difficult to find the ringleaders in phishing crimes is because most of the call centers, the majority of phishing companies, are located in China.

These illegal businesses, in turn, are divided into three parts: the call center, the workers who withdraw victims’ money and those who open fake accounts.

Police say that about 70 percent of the profit goes to the call center, while the other 30 percent to those who withdraw the money. Those who make fake accounts receive between 200,000 won and 400,000 won per account.

A lack of cooperation by Chinese authorities has also played a part.

Compounding the issue is that it’s getting more and more difficult to pursue these gangs. Even when call centers are located in Korea, scammers often change venues to give police the slip, frequently using fake phones and accounts so authorities can’t pursue them at all.

Moreover, members of phishing companies, who used to make fake accounts using the names and personal information of the homeless, are now beginning to using broader phishing techniques to create falsified accounts.

In a bid to root out such cases, the police have been actively cracking down on fake phones and accounts since late last month.

“The current regulation, which only imposes a 1 to 2 million won fine for those who provided fake accounts, needs to be revised,” a police officer acknowledged.

BY LEE SANG-HWA AND CHOI JONG-KWON [bongmoon@joongang.co.kr]



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