Thursday, April 26, 2007

Bu tuo wa de ren

We got a phone call today, which followed a pattern we've experienced before. When the phone is answered, an automated voice explains that your credit card has gone over its limit - the randomly generated excuse this time (they do actually differ) explained we'd spent 1.5 million won in a Lotte department store in Seoul this morning - a neat trick when you've been in Busan all day. Please press '9' for more details. On pressing the keypad, you're connected to a real person who proceeds to ask how they can help you.

Which is where the fun begins, because when you explain that you've been called, the no-doubt carefully rehearsed Korean accent breaks down and you're left trying to decipher what sounds suspiciously like a heavily-accented Chinese voice which is presumably trying to persuade you in halting Korean to give them your credit card details. I'm told it's usually so bad it's not only laughable, it's actually just impossible to understand. Which is where this scam breaks down and it makes you wonder why they bother.

Except that I've heard that a few Koreans do fall for it - maybe some of the people in the call centre are more convincing than others, even if the whole thing seems to have the word 'con' written all over it. I suppose hardly anyone falls for the Nigerian 419 scams either, but all it takes is a handful to make it worthwhile. I guess it's an open question as to whether there's a Chinese-staffed operation running somewhere in South Korea or whether an enterprising criminal group in China is taking their recent WTO entry to heart.

In any case, it looks like that these are far from isolated incidents with Korea's financial regulator warning of the increase in these so called phishing frauds just this week. However, apparently the solution to this lies in making it harder for foreigners (particularly those of Chinese ethnicity) to obtain bank accounts in Korea, the supposed logic of which bears some thinking about.

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