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January 20, 2011

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Elaborate scam dupes travelers

TRAVELERS struggling to get home by train for the Spring Festival are being targeted by con artists claiming to be railway staff with a stash of tickets for sale.

To reassure wary members of the public, the online adverts say that payment can be made on receipt of tickets.

But city railway police warn that gangs are performing an elaborate scam, impersonating voices and using software that changes the cell phone number appearing on an incoming call, to dupe customers.

One victim, surnamed Meng, was asked to go to Shanghai Railway Station on Monday, police said. But on arriving he received a call saying that payment could not be made in cash as it was an "inside job," and instead asking him to put money into a bank account.

Meng arranged for his girlfriend to go to a bank and await a call from him to say he'd received his ticket and that it was safe to pay in the cash.

But a few minutes later, Meng's girlfriend called to say that she'd just paid 1,100 yuan (US$167) into the account. Meng was surprised as he hadn't collected a ticket and hadn't advised her to make a payment

Meng's girlfriend insisted he'd phoned, before it dawned on the couple that the call had been made by someone impersonating Meng.

The gang used software to mimic Meng's cell phone number on incoming calls and imitated his voice in the call to his girlfriend.

Railway police said they received 21 similar reports between January 11 and Tuesday.

On Monday alone, 12 incidents were reported, including one in which a traveler was cheated out of 4,000 yuan. Officers are hunting the gang.

One way to check for this scam is to call the number back, as this reveals the actual number of the cell phone.

Police said yesterday that they have detained 90 ticket scalpers and seized 321 rail tickets worth more than 83,000 yuan since ticket sales started on January 9 for the Spring Festival traveling season.


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