U.S. mother, daughter scam busted in Busan

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U.S. mother, daughter scam busted in Busan

A mother and her daughter from the United States, who are part of an international group that carries out various inheritance and investment-related email scams, were arrested for fraud by Busan police on Thursday.

The mother, 67, and her daughter, 46, took 97 million won ($87,080) from a 32-year-old Sakhalin Korean, a Russian of Korean descent from Sakhalin Island, surnamed Kim. The money was taken through a total of 16 occasions from March to August of this year in Haeundae District in Busan.

The scam started when Kim received an email in March from who appeared to be a U.S. bank employee. The email read, “One of your distant relatives had passed away and has left 12 billion won to you.” At first, Kim was skeptical but ended up believing the email because the relative’s name written on the email seemed familiar.

Kim replied to the email, “How can I receive the inheritance?”

Soon after, the supposed U.S. bank employee sent another email, recommending Kim a lawyer. When Kim contacted the lawyer from the email, she explained how to receive the money and asked for a commission. Each time the lawyer asked for her payment, Kim wired the fee to a certain bank account in the U.S. Kim received a receipt and an authentication certificate whenever he transferred the fee.

One day, Kim received a call from the bank that said, “The inheritance is a very large amount of money and therefore authorities may suspect the involvement of terrorism or drug dealing. You need an investment contract so we’ll be sending representatives to Korea.” On Aug. 7, Kim met with the mother and her daughter, who were to help Kim with the investment contract and with the process of authenticating some documents with the U.S. Consulate in Busan. Kim gave them $7,500 in order to cover the alleged cost of “document authentication,” and also paid the two 600,000 won as a service charge.

But after being asked to pay on several occasions, Kim became suspicious and took the documents and the receipt for his $7,500 payment to the U.S. Consulate in Busan to verify their authenticity. When the U.S. Consulate told him, “We do not authenticate these kinds of documents,” Kim rushed to report this to the police. On Aug. 10, the police apprehended the mother and her daughter, who were staying at a hotel in Busan, just three hours before their flight out of Korea.

After a police investigation, it was revealed that the mother and her daughter acted as proxies in Korea for an international group and had a record of frequently flying in and out of Korea. The police investigation also confirmed that they have also been involved in three additional fraud cases, which the cost damages totaling about 500 million won.

“There are ongoing and countless cases of international email scams that ask money for things like inheritances or investment opportunities,” said a Busan police official. “From tracking IP addresses, most of the email scams come from western African countries such as Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire and Togo.”

BY HWANG SUN-YOON [lee.soowhan@joongang.co.kr]

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