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Gov`t Agencies Reeling From Voice Phishing Burden

Posted March. 21, 2009 08:19,   


“This is Dongjak Police Station. The PIN codes of your bank accounts have been leaked. You must ask the banks to stop payments on your accounts.”

“Dirty swindler! If you’re a policeman, I’m your grandfather!”

After discovering that a victim of voice phishing who deposited money into the account of a swindler did not report his losses to the police, Lt. Na Seok-gu of Dongjak Police Station in Seoul called the victim.

The victim, however, did not believe Na and considered him a swindler involved in voice phishing.

“He didn’t even want to listen to me. I think he didn’t believe me since he’d already lost his money due to voice phishing,” Na said.

○ Government officials being considered as criminals

Workers at police stations, post offices and tax authorities have been considered criminals involved in voice phishing when they call or send text messages to citizens.

One mailman at Gwangjin Post Office in Seoul called a few weeks ago to deliver an item to someone who had moved to another district. When the mailman said he was working for the post office, the intended recipient hung up the phone.

Banks and tax offices are being completely distrusted. Song Seung-hwa, in charge of tax returns at Yeongdeungpo District Tax Office in Seoul, said, “Many swindlers have falsely identified themselves as government officials in charge of tax refunds. That’s why no one trusts me when I call them about tax refunds.”

With more people calling government offices to confirm whether a caller is committing voice phishing, such agencies have been burdened with a growing workload.

Lee Mun-yeol, a civil affairs official at the Korea Post, said, “We are flooded with calls about voice phishing. We even face difficulty doing our work. Due to calls inquiring about voice phishing, other people with inquiries for different things have to wait a few minutes and sometimes even file complaints.”

○ Deceptive automated response system

In response, government officials have released a variety of measures.

Instead of requiring people to give their bank accounts over the phone, the Yeongdeungpo tax office is asking them to log on to its Web site, input their bank accounts, and get the tax refund.

Police are also sending summons before making calls. An officer at Seodaemun Police Station in Seoul said, “We send written summons to witnesses since they don’t believe us if we ask them to come to the police station over the phone.”

Experts say a voice phishing scam can be spotted easily by paying more attention.

Automated calls saying they are from the government are suspicious. Tax offices send letters instead of making automated calls, so an automated call saying, “If you want further information on tax refund, please press nine,” is bogus.

When sending text messages, post offices do not reveal their caller ID to differentiate themselves from voice phishing, which has caller ID to encourage potential victims to call back.

The Financial Supervisory Service does not ask for bank account numbers over the phone. So a person should not believe a caller who says, “Your personal information has been leaked. You must remit a certain amount of money to a specified bank account.”

Lim Jun-tae, a professor of police administration at Dongguk University in Seoul, said, “Government offices and agencies should send written letters to citizens. For their part, people need to make more effort to spot legitimate calls from government agencies from voice phishing.”