Phone scammers who targeted Chinese arrested

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Phone scammers who targeted Chinese arrested

Police arrested fraudsters on Wednesday, including tour guides who stole the personal information of hundreds of Chinese tourists to create prepaid mobile phones to rake in millions of won.

The Telecommunications Business Act forbids citizens from using someone else’s identity in registering for a mobile phone. But this practice is still used by some telecommunication service providers, given the market demand from loan sharks, gamblers, voice phishing scammers or others who wish to make anonymous calls that cannot be traced back to them.

The Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency arrested three tour guides for violating the Personal Information Protection Act and two telecommunication employees for violating the Telecommunications Business Act. They booked without detention two tour agency employees and eight employees of telecommunication companies.

According to the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency, three tour guides “borrowed” passports from 340 Chinese tourists who visited Jeju Island from last November to May, took photos of them and leaked them to brokers. The tour guides reportedly received some 10,000 to 15,000 won ($8.70 to $13) per passport and raked in some 5 million won in total. The three tour guides were assisted by two tour agency employees. All five are Chinese nationals, according to police.

The brokers then handed the information off to employees of telecommunication companies, receiving some 60,000 to 70,000 won per passport. Police said they presume one or two brokers were involved in this case, who are Chinese nationals and currently in China.

Seoul police said they are seeking cooperation from Chinese authorities on the case.

The employees of telecommunication companies then created prepaid phones using the tourists’ identities. One of the employees arrested created some 800 prepaid phones this way with 340 Chinese tourists’ passports, and sold them at 100,000 to 150,000 won each, raking in some 50 million won in total.

There are 25 different telecommunication companies in Korea that provide prepaid phone cards. Given that they do not share their customers’ information with each other, one individual can open at most 25 different prepaid phone numbers.

“In this case alone, 10 employees of telecommunication companies opened up some 3,000 prepaid mobile phone numbers in total using some 1,000 Chinese tourists’ information they collected from tour guides and brokers,” said Cha Sang-jin, head of the international investigation team of the Seoul police. “Three tour guides who provided 340 Chinese tourists’ information have been caught. Now we are investigating where the telecommunication employees got the information on the 660 other Chinese tourists.”

BY SOHN GUK-HEE, ESTHER CHUNG [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]

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