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Police give telephone scam warning

CITY police yesterday warned citizens, especially the elderly, about a rise in telephone swindle.

Sixty-three telephone swindles were reported this month after the lunar New Year break, police said. Wang, a 72-year-old local woman, lost 1.5 million yuan (US$219,452), the most among the victims.

Wang received a phone call on December 25 last year from a man who pretended to work for a telecom company in Suzhou, Jiangsu Province. He claimed Wang had an outstanding 1,000 yuan telephone bill. She then received a second call from a "police officer" who said it was also possible her bank account had a security problem.

"I go to Suzhou frequently these days, as I have a house there and the house is being decorated, so I believed them," Wang said. She transferred 3 million yuan to the swindlers' two accounts, after they told her this would protect her accounts from theft.

Police recovered 1.5 million yuan from an account in Xiamen, Fujian Province. The other 1.5 million yuan had already been transferred to another six accounts when the police tried to recover it.

On December 29, four suspects in the case were caught in a guesthouse in Putuo District, said Yang Weigen, deputy director of the city police's criminal case division.

The four, surnamed Peng, Wang, Cao and Li, allegedly worked for numerous scam ringleaders. They admitted to police that they withdrew nearly 2 million yuan in Xiamen as well as Chaozhou, Shantou and Jieyang cities in Guangdong Province in a week.

A day later, another two suspects, surnamed Zhou and Wu, were caught in Xiamen. City police said they have caught 11 suspects in total connected to this case, and the investigation is ongoing.

This type of crime has been rising rapidly since September. Police foiled more than 200 swindles, Yang said.

Internet banking is also an area con artists take advantage of the elderly. They call and entice victims to open new bank accounts at the Agricultural Bank of China and to apply for Internet banking services. The bank provides customers with a card that lists their account numbers and online security information. Swindlers then phone the victims, pretending to be from the bank and ask them to read out their security information, which they use to clear out the new accounts.

"Many elderly residents are not familiar with Internet banking services, and con artists take advantage of it," said Yang. "Some victims just tell all their passwords to swindlers, which allows them to withdraw as much as they want."


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