40,000 scammed in latest data leak, police allege

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40,000 scammed in latest data leak, police allege

A 33-year-old man, identified only by his surname Seo, has been arrested for allegedly orchestrating a scheme to use stolen personal information from 40,000 people, registering them at an adult online site and bilking them out of 9,900 won ($9.20) every month, the police reported yesterday.

The Gyeonggi Police Agency added it had launched investigations into 11 more people it believes colluded with Seo.

The police accused Seo of taking over the ownership of an Internet porn site in September last year and registering those 40,000 people as members using personal data that he purchased illegally from brokers.

All told, Seo raked in 480 million won from September to December, alleged the authorities.

According to the police, Seo teamed up with 11 people who work at a payment gateway service, a company that sends out payment confirmation text messages. With the help of those 11 people, the victims received payment confirmation text messages that looked like spam messages advertising for adult sites, showing a link to an Internet address instead of a confirmation text to pay 9,900 won for a monthly subscription to the adult site.

Of the 40,000 people whose personal data was used, 3,650 noticed their data had been breached and demanded refunds, which they later received.

The police said they are looking into whether Seo had other collaborators and if others were defrauded using the same trick.

This latest incident involving the theft of personal data has added to the growing public anxiety over the security of personal information online, especially after a report by the country’s second-largest mobile carrier KT last week that more than 12 million of its subscribers had their personal data stolen over the course of one year.

Worries are growing over the potential role of Korea’s ubiquitous mobile phone shops in personal data breaches because the stores enjoy wide access to people’s personal information and many shops are fly-by-night operations.

In the recent KT case, the hacker who leaked the information of 12 million subscribers was helped by an accomplice identified as the owner of a mobile phone shop.

Estimates say there are nearly 40,000 mobile phone dealerships nationwide - by way of comparison, that’s far more than Korea’s 24,000 convenience stores and 13,000 gas stations.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [jkkang2@joongang.co.kr]

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