Taiwan's police bust telecom fraud ring targeting migrant workers

Victims' personal phone details sold to fraud operators to scam them out of money

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Photo By: DOD graphic by Regina Ali (defense.gov)

Photo By: DOD graphic by Regina Ali (defense.gov)

Fraudsters have scammed migrant workers out of money across the country by obtaining their personal phone details.

Police have busted a telecom fraud ring that tricked migrant workers into handing over their personal information and used it to register for phone numbers, which they then sold to other telecom fraud operations to scam victims of money, the Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) said at a press conference on Friday.

A total of 12 suspects, including eight Vietnamese migrants and spouses, were arrested in raids that took place in several cities in Taiwan on Wednesday and Thursday, the CIB said.

The CIB's Telecom Investigation Corps Deputy Commander Lin Ming-chun (林明俊) said the suspects sent Vietnamese sales agents to locations frequented by migrant workers on weekends, where they obtained the victims' personal information by offering to help them register for a mobile phone number free of charge.

Because many migrant workers are unfamiliar with the application process and do not speak the local language, they often rely on middlemen to help them apply for phone and internet service, Lin said. In this case, however, the suspects allegedly used the migrants' personal information to apply for phone numbers for the purpose of selling them to telecom fraud organizations.

Telecom fraudsters prefer to use phone numbers that cannot be traced back to them to make calls to trick people into transferring money to them.

Some of the victims who received phone calls from the fraudsters using the phone numbers registered under the migrants' names reported the numbers to the police.

Lin said that by analyzing the database of the phone numbers reported to the 165 Anti-Fraud and Internet Scam Hotline, police discovered a large proportion of recent telecom fraud activity came from numbers that were registered to migrant workers. Following an investigation, police launched a series of raids on Wednesday and Thursday, arresting the 12 suspects in Taoyuan, Taichung, Tainan, and Chiayi cities.

The suspects are expected to face charges of forgery and fraud, and will be turned over to district prosecutors following interrogation, Lin said.

Police said the migrant workers did actually get a phone number from the middlemen, but the fraud ring's members would use the migrants' personal details to apply for additional phone numbers with other telecoms providers, and those extra numbers were the ones that were sold and used to make the calls.

It's not yet clear how many people were scammed using these phone numbers and how much money was tricked from them. The case is under further investigation.