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December 20, 2012

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Locals' smarts turned against them by thieves

THE sophistication and concern of Shanghai residents for their finances can ironically make them easier prey for telecom fraud, according to a former fraud ring leader who spoke yesterday at Shanghai Tilanqiao Prison, where he is serving time.

The inmate, identified as Luo Ruijie, was sentenced to 14 years after he made a profit of more than 1 million yuan (US$160,424) through frauds perpetrated over the phone.

Shanghai was the main target of Luo's ring because of its successful business climate compared to other cities.

"We put all of our force in Shanghai because Shanghai residents would listen to us carefully over the phone due to their high level of sophistication, nurtured by the environment of the metropolis," Luo said.

"We didn't open the Beijing market due to the accent barrier. We also failed in central and western cities because the signals are unsteady and some couldn't even understand what is leak of personal information, which resulted in a failure of communication," Luo said.

According to Luo, Shanghai residents usually have a higher awareness of legal and security issues, but too often not to the point of knowing how to protect their accounts, an area where many have little knowledge.

"Information leaks and account security are both sensitive topics to Shanghai residents. They will listen carefully to what you say and that helps telecom fraud rings induce them to the next step and finally swindle money from their accounts," Luo said. He said his criminal peers also focus on Shanghai.

The number of telecom fraud cases in Shanghai has seen a sharp rise in recent years. Local police said they uncovered 1,915 telecom fraud cases from this January to November, an increased of 51.9 percent from the period in 2011.

But the scam business is not as easy as before after police stepped up to warn the public and take measures to curb the frauds, Luo said.

The Shanghai No.1 Intermediate People's Court said it handled 22 telecom fraud cases in the past four years. More than 80 percent happened over the phone or through text messages, while the rest took place on the Internet.

The court said telecom fraud cases were huge, with the highest involving 4.6 million yuan.


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