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June 14, 2012

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Police want action against phone 'spoofing' scams

SHANGHAI police are calling on telecom administrators to stop service to suspected clients who use Internet phone calls to scam residents in China.

Police said suspects take advantage of the ability to call with their number blocked or a false number shown - a practice called "spoofing'' - in order to confuse victims.

In a typical recent case, a woman surnamed Zhou was bilked up 4.2 million yuan (US$659,236) after she received a phone call with the number of a police department in Beijing.

Zhou said she got the phone call on May 4 with the number starting with 010, the regional code of Beijing, from someone who claimed to be from the economic crime investigation department of Beijing police.

The caller said Zhou's social security account was overdrawn and might be involved with a money laundering case and asked Zhou to cooperate with the police investigation.

Zhou checked the caller number with 114, a yellow pages hotline, and was told that the caller's number belongs to Beijing police.

Several minutes later, the caller rang Zhou again, who by this time trusted the caller. Zhou was asked to transfer all her money to a safe account offered by the "police." She did so, transferring all the savings of her family plus money borrowed from friends and relatives.

The caller turned out to be a scammer using a function offered by the telecom operator to mimic the police telephone number, Shanghai police said. The case was still under investigation.

To attract clients, telecom operators enable clients to set the incoming number they want to be displayed on the phone of someone they call. That can be used as a tactic by suspects, said Wei Jian, an anti-telecom scam expert of Shanghai police.

"The first step of the suspects is making calls, most of them called with servers overseas," Wei said. "This year we had eight cases with stolen money reaching over 1 million yuan and all the victims received the calls with a false number."

But Wei also said the trick was not hard to see through as long as the receiver of the call dials back the number to check it.

Shanghai police said they have detained more than 270 suspects this year in hundreds of telecom scam cases and helped to stop 1,780 potential cases, keeping 91 million yuan from possibly being stolen.


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