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July 5, 2012

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Police catch 87 suspects in separate phone scams

TWO telephone scam cases in the city involving more than 7,000 victims around the country have netted 87 suspects, Shanghai police said yesterday.

The two cases were similar in that both gangs made cold calls pretending to offer big discounts on items or free gifts to cheat a small amount of money from each victim.

The two gangs ripped off more than 2.5 million yuan (US$393,850) combined in the last two years, police said.

In one of the cases, an undercover police officer disguised himself as a telephone operator in suburban Fengxian District to uncover the ring, police said.

The ring hired operators to "give gift packages" since March, said the undercover officer surnamed Wang.

"One operator had to make 200 calls each day," Wang said.

The operators were asked to tell the victims they were offering gifts from a famous electrical appliance company.

"The free gift package included a pair of 3D glasses and a television stick (a USB tuner that picks up free-to-air channels to be watched on a computer), priced at 1,000 yuan. Victims were told the package was free and they only needed to pay 198 yuan for delivery, insurance and the import inspection fee," Wang said. "Operators also offered a pre-paid telephone card worth 300 yuan. But the gift package was worth 10 yuan and the phone cards were fakes."

Delivery men would take the money on behalf of the gang as a cash-on-delivery service. Most of the victims didn't realize they had been duped until after they made the payment.

When victims called back, the number was out of service.

After a one-month investigation, the ring was caught by Fengxian District police on March 31, netting 76 suspects. The gang tricked 1,100 people in 29 provinces and cities across China out of more than 1.7 million yuan, police said.

In the second case, a gang of 11 was stopped in suburban Qingpu District on June 11.

Pretending to be customer service staff members of a famous market, the ring made cold calls to households and asked people to pay 199 yuan for luxury cosmetics and telephone cards. They had fooled more than 6,000 people since 2010 and earned 800,000 yuan, according to the police.


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