130.6 billion won saved from phishing

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130.6 billion won saved from phishing

The government prevented a total 130.6 billion won ($107.8 million) from being transferred to scammers last year as part of stepped up efforts to crack down on financial fraud, the Financial Supervisory Service (FSS) said on Tuesday.

The amount of money saved was 24 percent higher from the previous year, when 105.6 billion won in suspicious transactions were prevented.

The top financial watchdog and banks cooperated to protect locals from sending money to scammers. They suspended suspicious transactions, and checked whether the transactions and associated bank accounts were legitimate. Through the collaboration, the agency and banks found that a total of 20,543 accounts were used in fraud cases such as online voice phishing.

“We were able to reduce the amount of damage by engaging aggressively to prevent scams,” said Kim Yong-sil, a team leader at the FSS’s counter-financial fraud team.

The FSS said that it prevented 68 billion won from being transferred in the first half of last year and 35.6 billion won in the second half.

Local banks also stepped up their own surveillance systems. They monitored suspicious accounts so that scammers could not withdraw or transfer money from them.

The total number of cases of fraudsters caught making inappropriate transactions at local brick-and-mortar branches rose to 440 last year, saving about 12.2 billion won. In some cases, bank employees advised customers not to make transactions since they were planning to send money to accounts that were deemed suspicious.

Banks were also able to reduce damage by with increased monitoring of so-called borrowed name accounts, which are opened under false names. Borrowed name bank accounts totaled 27,598 last year, down 41 percent from 46,902 a year earlier.

To combat voice phishing, the FSS released phone call voice records used in such cases on its website last year. As more locals became familiar with scamming tricks, they became more cautious.

The regulator also introduced a withdrawal delay system last year to protect voice phishing victims. With the new system, any monetary transfer of 1 million won or more can be withdrawn 30 minutes after the cash arrives in a bank account. That way, potential victims who realize they have been scammed can quickly get their money back.

However, as preventive measures were strengthened, criminals also became smarter and bolder. Some phishers were brave enough to meet with victims in person and take money away from them, according to a National Police Agency report released Tuesday.

Three phishers pretending to work for the prosecutors’ office told victims that their bank accounts had been identified as borrowed name accounts and ordered them to pay fines to “investigators” who would visit their home. They took 580 million won from 18 victims last year by going as far as setting up a fake prosecutors’ office website and work ID.

The number of such scam cases rose to 147 in the second half of 2015 from 23 cases in the first half, according to the police.

BY KIM YOUNG-NAM, LEE TAE-KYUNG [kim.youngnam@joongang.co.kr]

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