Tuesday, February 24, 2009

South Korea police to block mobile phone signals near ATMs

The police are planning to block the use of cellphones near cash machines to prevent telephone-based financial fraud known as voice-phishing, officials said yesterday.

Senior citizens, who frequently have little knowledge about online financial processes, are often tricked by phone calls telling them to go to an ATM and transfer money.

The defrauders usually claim to be officials of the police, prosecution, financial institutes, post office or tax agencies, and urge the receiver to check his or her account for any personal information leakage.

"We expect a visible decrease in voice phishing crimes by stopping people from using cellphones around ATMs," said an official of the National Police Agency. "In order to minimize general inconvenience, we will limit the cellphone block to two to three meters in front of each machine."

The police will send an official document to the Japanese Embassy, requesting assistance in the introduction of the system, which has been adopted for a while in Japan, officials said. In Japan, electronic devices are attached to ATMs to sense the electromagnetic waves from cellphones and stop any phone conversations in the surrounding area.

Officials will also seek cooperation from local banks to modify their ATMs as to send out voice messages to remind users of the dangers of voice phishing, especially when the user has chosen to transfer money out of the account.

"We need cooperation from banks and mobile carriers in order to prevent voice phishing crimes," said a police official. "They generally agree on the need to protect their customers from fraud."

Many citizens agree that warning messages should be more visible.

"I have heard about voice phishing on the news, but when I actually received one of those calls, I almost gave out my account number," said Kim Soo-hyun, a housewife living in Seoul. "It has become even harder to distinguish these voice phishing calls as they are no longer made by foreigners in inarticulate Korean."

With voice phishing on the increase, the National Tax Service last Thursday warned tax payers about calls asking for an account number to pay the oil tax refund into.


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