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October 19, 2009

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You've won a car - seriously, you really have

SCAMS involving mobile phones have turned people, not surprisingly, into skeptics.

So the first inclination when you receive a call saying you have won a luxury car is to hang up.

And that's exactly what a Shanghai woman, surnamed Fu, did.

However, this time the call was for real.

Fu had won a Mercedes-Benz C-Class sedan in a legitimate company promotion campaign and yesterday finally claimed her shining prize.

The Shanghai branch of electrical appliance retailer Gome staged a lottery during the National Day holiday break to promote sales.

It announced on Saturday that Fu had won the big prize - the 330,000 yuan (US$48,340) car.

When Gome staff phoned her they were shocked after they were abruptly disconnected.

Gome's subsequent and frequent calls to Fu attempting to inform her just where to claim her prize went unanswered.

"I thought it was a telephone swindle again as there are so many of these kinds of messages and calls," Fu said. "Not until the news came on television saying Gome was trying to contact me did I believe I had really won a prize."

Fu said she bought a television in Gome's flagship store on Changshou Road during the holidays.

She filled in her ID and mobile phone numbers on a special ticket as did about 135,000 other shoppers.

Many residents in Shanghai said they would have had a similar reaction to Fu's.

"I ignore calls like these, too, as I receive messages almost every day, saying I have won a prize or I should transfer money to some bank account," said 25-year-old photographer Matthew Ma.

Shanghai police have often warned residents, especially the elderly and women, about a rise in telephone swindles.

Dozens of local residents, including foreigners, have been persuaded to transfer money into the accounts of scam artists who pretend to be police, tax and banking officials or telecommunications staff.

Individual losses ranged from several thousand to hundreds of thousands of yuan, city police said.

A 72-year-old Shanghai woman, surnamed Wang, transferred as much as 3 million yuan to the swindlers posing as police officers.

Chinese police have broken up 229 fraud rings and detained more than 1,400 people involved in phone scams over the seven weeks ending on July 31 in a crackdown, according to statistics from the Ministry of Public Security.

Police identified almost 3,000 scams and seized 12.48 million yuan in this period, the ministry said.


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