Voice Phishing Getting Sophisticated
Rhee Jin-shik, a 57-year-old self-employed businessman, got a phone call from a post office about a month ago. The caller said Rhee's credit card had been returned there for some reason.
Astounded, Rhee said he hadn't applied for any plastic cards. The caller then said she would notify the police, mentioning similar incidents.
Minutes later, a policeman from the cyber investigation unit called Rhee to confirm he indeed had not created a credit card account. After receiving Rhee's confirmation, the policeman said the Financial Supervisory Service (FSS) would take charge of the case.
An FSS official called a panicked Rhee, urging him to transfer money from his savings account to a safe one held by the FSS. The official said that financial criminals had hacked into his account.
Rhee did as the FSS official directed him to do. It took a few days for him to realize he'd been tricked, as the FSS official never contacted him to return his money. All the callers proved to be con artists.
This kind of financial trickery has been dubbed ``voice phishing,'' a scam that gets more and more sophisticated, thus fooling even intelligent people.
``I'd also heard of voice phishing but as far as I know, most callers for the financial scam are Korean-Chinese, who have easily identifiable tone and intonation,'' Rhee said.
``But all the callers were Seoulites, just like my next-door neighbors. I did not doubt them because they sound like real post office officials, policemen and financial regulator,'' he said.
In foreign countries, voice fishing is typically used to steal credit card numbers or other private financial information for identity theft schemes.
But in Korea, most voice phishers try to dupe unsuspecting people into sending their money to criminals. Although most such scams fail, they sometimes succeed.
According to the Anti-Corruption & Civil Rights Commission, a total of 77,177 cases of voice phishing were reported last year, with the damage reaching 2.2 billion won.
Voice fishing even cost a life. Late last month, a female university student in Gimhae, South Gyeongsang Province, committed suicide after transferring about 6.4 million won to a voice phisher.
The voice phisher employed the same strategy used to fake Rhee. Such criminals are difficult to catch.
``Voice phising is very hard to monitor or trace since they typically depend on Internet-based telephones, of which the numbers are not traceable,'' an FSS official said.
``The best way not to be tricked by voice phishers is to remain highly suspicious whenever anybody asks people to transfer money. Those who instruct you on the telephone line to send money are 100 percent sure to be voice phishers,'' he said.