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Phishing ring busted in Jeju, 60 people arrested

Dec 29,2017
Police announced Wednesday that they arrested 60 people, mostly Taiwanese, who extorted some 4.5 billion won ($4.1 million) from residents in China through voice phishing scams they pulled off while stationed in villas on Jeju Island.

Of the 60 people, 51 are Taiwanese, seven are Chinese and two are Korean. The person in charge of the group is a 35-year-old Taiwanese man.

This is the first time Korean authorities arrested here a group of foreigners involved in voice phishing. They were arrested on Dec. 20.

The group rented two villas in Jeju city and targeted residents in China in their scams from April to Dec. 20. They would call residents in China while pretending to be Chinese security officials, tell them their identity and information had been leaked to unknown sources and ask them to wire money in order to receive help from the central government.

Police suspect they extorted some 500 million won per month from April to December.

The two Koreans involved, a 41-year-old man and a 37-year-old woman, rented the two villas in Jeju.

“The group probably chose to do this in Jeju because Chinese people could enter the island without a visa,” said a police officer. “They probably also thought that they would not draw much attention here as the island was known to have many Chinese tourists.”

The Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency started investigating the case from September, when a Taiwanese member of the group was arrested in Taiwan. Korean authorities received information from Taiwan on the suspect’s involvement with voice phishing scams on Jeju Island.

Tracking down the IP address they gained from this case, Seoul authorities located the two villas in Jeju and found that a handful of foreigners were involved.

Seoul police joined hands with Jeju police and the Jeju immigration office and dispatched some 120 officers to ambush the villas on Dec. 20. They arrested 57 people on site and confiscated cell phones, laptops and papers that contained guidelines on making scam calls.

On the same day in Seoul, police arrested the two Koreans in a residential area in Songpa District, southern Seoul, and the 35-year-old Taiwanese leader of the group in front of a hotel in Jamsil in Songpa.

Most of the arrested denied having been involved.

“We have secured evidence through the information found on the laptops and on the papers seized at the villas,” said a police officer. “We also found traces that the suspects tried to burn and destroy the evidence.”

Police said many of the arrested people were “ordered to follow the scamming guidelines after their passports and cellphones were taken away from them.”

Korean authorities are communicating with Chinese authorities to assess the extent of the victims’ losses.

“The arrested suspects will be investigated according to Korean laws,” said a police officer. “Then the case will be submitted to the prosecution here. After that, if Chinese authorities want the suspects extradited, we could have them extradited through procedures at the Korean Ministry of Justice.”

BY HA JUN-HO, ESTHER CHUNG [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]