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Vendor of phone spyware faces criminal charges

A MAN who allegedly lied about his products and swindled money from people buying his cell phone bugs has been arrested, Luwan District prosecutors said.

The suspect, Zhang Yong, confessed that he had succeeded in cheating 11,750 yuan (US$1,762) from more than 20 victims between April 2009 and September 2010. Some victims wanted to use the bugs to spy on their spouses and collect the evidence of their extramarital affairs. Some wanted to use them to steal commercial secrets.

Zhang installed voice-change software on his own cell phone so that he could play different roles to cheat the victims, prosecutors said. They warned people not to buy bugs because it is illegal for any unauthorized person or company to possess or sell spy equipment.

A woman, surnamed Chen, received a message from Zhang asking her to contact the seller if she wanted to monitor calls from other people's mobile phones in August 2009. Chen, who suspected her husband might be having an extramarital affair, called for a trial.

Zhang boasted that he could help her monitor her husband's calls by duplicating his SIM card. He gave Chen a bank account number and asked for 800 yuan as down payment.
After Chen had paid the money, Zhang asked for a further 3,000 yuan as "risk money," because "there was risk of being caught by police for engaging in illegal business." Zhang promised to return the "risk money" as soon as the deal was completed safely.

After Chen had transferred 3,000 yuan to his account, Zhang said she got it wrong, the amount should be 8,000 yuan. Chen became suspicious and, as she had still not received the promised cell phone, reported it to the police.

Another victim, surnamed Zhao, was a businessman who claimed to be curious about mobile phones that were able to eavesdrop on other conversations.

He ordered such a cell phone after receiving a message from Zhang and paid 300 yuan as a down payment.

He then received a call from another man claiming to be in charge of delivery. He said he would send the goods to Zhao as soon as he had paid the rest of the money -- the full amount has not been disclosed -- to his boss. When Zhao did this, he received nothing in return, prosecutors said.

Zhang confessed after being caught that he had disguised himself as the boss and the man in charge of delivery by using the voice-changing software.

Shanghai Daily found a number of ads promoting cell phone bugs on the Internet.
Shen Chen, a prosecutor with the office, said it is illegal to sell or buy bugs, but police are unable to shut down all the online bug stores as it is difficult to get evidence to prove the deals have happened.


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