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China to Fight SMS, Internet Fraud

A two-month campaign to fight fraud committed through mobile phone text messages or the Internet has been launched to curb one of the nation's newest forms of crime.

Zhang Xinfeng, vice minister of public security, said Tuesday that mobile phones and the Internet have become the most extensively used channels for exchanging information in recent years, but some criminals also use them to commit fraud.

"Defrauders usually register a cell phone number with a fake name and then send false messages by mass mailing to other cell phone users, telling them they have won prizes in a lottery or they are offered very cheap smuggled goods," Zhang said.

"Common people are easily tempted by these offers of prizes or goods, which are usually color TVs, laptops or millions in cash. If they contact the perpetrators, the latter usually ask them to remit money to a specified bank account for payment of tax, postage or insurance fees," Zhang explained.

He said that people who have been scammed range from laborers and farmers to intellectuals and government officials. The money they have been cheated out of ranges from a few thousand yuan to millions. Some have been swindled out of all their bank deposits and others have even misappropriated public funds to make the payments demanded by the cheats.

SMS and Internet fraud first appeared in east China's Fujian Province, but they have spread rapidly in recent years to other locations, including Guangdong, Hubei, Zhejiang, Hunan and Jiangxi provinces.

In the past two months, the Fujian police have solved 155 such cases, apprehending 147 suspects and seizing numerous mobile phones and bank cards.

"Perpetrators even use SMS to offer phony diplomas and certificates, fake money, invoices and various types of guns. Some have shifted to new methods of fraud using the Internet, such as fabricating an online auction," Zhang said.

Large quantities of fraud messages also cause frequent jams in communication networks, which affects the normal use of mobile phones and people's daily contact, he noted.

Zhang said the information industry offices must step up supervision of phone number registrations as well as text messages. He encouraged the blocking of junk messages with specialized technologies. At the same time, financial departments should intensify monitoring of new bank account openings, while other sectors should crack down on the making of fake certificates, diplomas and invoices.

(Xinhua News Agency June 2, 2004)

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