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June 1, 2010

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Phone scam rattles victims with claim of court summons

IF you get a phone call from someone claiming to be court official, be on your guard.

It's likely to be a scam, according to local police.

In a ruse that's on the rise, swindlers pretending to be court officials call up to announce a court summons. The callers usually create an atmosphere of urgency, making it easy to pull victims into scenario that ends up separating them from their money.

"The number of such cases is rising recently," Officer Huang Yi told Shanghai Daily, "among which the number of foreign victims rose as well." Huang did not provide figures.

Court summons are never sent via calls or messages, police warned yesterday.

In the latest case, an American identified as William got a call from a "court official" saying that William was summoned and would be punished if he refused the summons.

Being unfamiliar with the legal system in China, William was scared and worried about the summons but fortunately consulted his lawyer friends, and didn't do what the caller asked.

In another instance, a resident surnamed Li got a call from a certain "court" that told her about a summons and asked her to press 9 for more details.

When she did, a man who claimed to be a court official picked up the line. He told her that her name had been used by someone to apply for a credit card which was seriously overdrawn. Li had been sued by the bank.

If Li did not answer the summons, all of her accounts would be frozen, the man said. Then he gave her the number of a "police officer dealing with the case" who might help her out.

She called the number and the "officer" gave her advice on protecting her money. She listened - and transferred 20,000 yuan (US$2,930) to an account through an ATM.

Huang warned people to be careful of calls that mention unpaid bills, credit card overdrafts, money laundering and court summonses.

"Most of them are scams," Huang said. "Ignore them, don't believe anything and don't transfer any money."


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