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Shanghai warns against telecom scams

By Zhou Wenting (China Daily)

08:28, May 27, 2013

Conning people into believing they are being investigated and fined by the country's top prosecuting agency is the latest in a string of telecom scams targeting people across the country, police have warned.

More than 10 such cases have been reported to Shanghai police recently, police spokesman Zhuang Liqiang said without giving details of how much money has been lost.

Zhuang said the personal information of more than 100 Shanghai residents had been misused, much of it appearing on a fake Supreme People's Procuratorate website.

Many of the people had received phone calls to ask them to visit the website and transfer money to a so-called security account set up by the police.

Zhuang said the police have contacted all of the people on the list to warn them.

"We found the gang and the server for the website were based overseas — so it was hard to shut down the site and to immediately start to prosecute those responsible for the scam," he said.

Scam victims said they received phone calls from people claiming to be prosecutors, and they were told they were suspected of money laundering.

They were asked to log onto the website of the top prosecuting agency and click on their names, which appeared in a list of wanted suspects.

They were then told to follow instructions that appeared on the website, including typing in their ID card numbers and personal information, and then to transfer money to a "security account".

"Police would never set up such an account and require people to transfer money when issuing a warrant for their arrest," Zhuang said.

"Only the police have the right to release such an order, while the prosecuting agency is responsible for reviewing suspect files."

Since the start of the year, Shanghai police have launched a series of awareness initiatives to help people avoid such scams.

According to the city's public security bureau, more than 1,200 cases of telecom fraud have been prevented, potentially worth 60 million yuan ($9.77 million).

The scams normally make use of some phrases that police have warned people to watch out for, including "security account" and "transfer".

"In some cases, they asked middle-aged and older residents to go to their ATMs, select English as the main language, and then request ‘an upgrade of their credit or debit cards', which actually meant ‘transfer' — but those residents did not understand the English terms," said Wu Yi, another Shanghai police spokesman.

Lawyers are now calling for tougher measures to ensure the security of personal information, particularly within the legal departments of authorities.

"Authorities should limit who can get access to citizens' information, and even delinquency records, to avoid data being exploited by people as a method of obtaining money illegally," said Yi Shenghua, director in charge of criminal cases at the Yingke Law Firm in Beijing.

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