Phone Scam Network Not Only in Indonesia but Also across Asia

Hundreds of Chinese and Taiwanese nationals have been arrested across Asia in an international operation targeting telephone scam artists, officials in several countries said Friday. Most of the arrests were in Indonesia and Cambodia where 177 and 166 people respectively were held in a cross-border crackdown on criminals using Internet phone services to trick thousands of victims across the region out of money.

In Malaysia, police on Borneo island arrested 27 Chinese and 10 Taiwanese nationals for allegedly duping people into paying fake traffic fines, the official news agency Bernama and New Straits Times daily reported.
And Thai police said they had arrested four suspects, one Taiwanese woman and three Thai nationals, in raids on seven locations in Bangkok based on information provided by Taiwanese police.

They said a representative of the Taiwanese police was present during the arrests. The massive police operation appeared to be a co-ordinated response to tip-offs from authorities in China and Taiwan, though neither country confirmed or denied their involvement when contacted by AFP.

Taiwan’s Criminal Investigation Bureau said it was still verifying the reported arrests while China’s ministry of public security said it had no immediate comment. Jakarta’s police chief Sutarman said 76 Chinese and 101 Taiwanese nationals had been arrested in 15 different locations in the Indonesian capital “following requests by Chinese and Taiwanese police”. 

He said the suspects would rent houses with broadband access and make phone calls over the Internet “to many victims in China, Taiwan, the Philippines and Vietnam in which they posed as an official to extort money”.

Cambodia’s Interior Ministry said in a statement on Friday the “crackdown on cross-border extortion” happened “in collaboration with the ministry of public security of the People’s Republic of China”. 

The nationwide raids in Cambodia, which also saw one Vietnamese woman taken into custody, followed numerous victim complaints, a police spokesman said, adding that the suspects had “many tricks” to extort funds. Details of the scams are sketchy and appeared to have varied in different countries.

The group in Malaysia is accused of calling individuals in China and telling them they had been issued a traffic summons, asking them to pay money into an online account to settle the fine or face court action. Police said they believed thousands of people were taken in. The element of surprise was key for the scam artists, said police in Thailand, who found 43 ATM cards, more than 20 mobile phones and bank account details in their raids.

“This team’s task was to find Thai bank account numbers and send them to another team in China where Thai people will call victims and ask the victim to transfer money to a Thai bank account,” said Police Colonel Phanthana Nutchanart.

“The two main tricks are to surprise the victim, for instance by telling them they have won the lottery, or to frighten them by saying their bank account or credit card was suspended,” he said. (English - KOMPAS)

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