Police in south China's Guangdong province yesterday claimed to have solved nearly 500 cases of "telephone fraud", involving a whopping 11.85 million yuan (1.75 million U.S. dollars), this year.
The public security department of the province was quoted by Wednesday's China Daily as saying cops started cracking down on the frauds at the beginning of this year.
The police have "uncovered and broken" 46 criminal gangs, which were involved in 486 cases of telephone fraud, involving 2.45 million yuan in cash and 9.4 million yuan in bank deposits, the department disclosed. The police have seized 323 people, suspected of either committing the crimes or being involved with the gangs, and confiscated 678 phones, 735 SIM cards and more than 2,800 credit or debit cards.
"There are at least three kinds of telephone frauds rampant in Guangdong at present," the department said.
The first one is arguably the oldest trick in the book, where scammers send out text messages to a large number of cell phone users, telling them they have won a lottery, but to collect the huge sum of money they would have to first deposit a "transfer commission charge" to a particular bank account.
In the second trick, scammers call up people saying their relatives were involved in a major traffic accident and urging them to transfer some money for an emergency operation.
In another trick that has recently come to light in many provinces across China, con artists use computer software to change their caller ID and make their victims believe they are calling from authorized organizations, such as the telecommunication department, banks or government offices.
The victims are then told they have been fined for deferring payments for their telephone bills or credit cards and must transfer money to a particular account to avoid legal hassles.
Most of the victims, the department said, were women older than40 years of age, some of whom have been duped of "millions of yuan".
Some victims said they received phone calls from people who claimed to be customer service officials of their respective banks, asking for their credit card information for "internal review".
The cheats then call the bank back on the phone, saying they have lost their credit cards - they give out the information acquired from the original owner - and ask for the bank to issue anew card.