Online scammers pose as police officers to entrap victims
  • | VNS | January 29, 2024 10:59 AM
Online scammers are posing as police officers to con money and personal details from unsuspecting victims.


The interface of a fake Facebook page claiming to be the Cybersecurity and High-tech Crime Prevention Unit. — Photo

Authorities say this type of trick is on the rise, and they are warning people to be extra vigilant and never share information with an unidentified caller.

In January alone, criminals have stolen more than $800,000 using this and other similar online scams.

Mrs T. from Sơn Tây Town, Hanoi, said she received a call in late December 2023 from someone claiming to be a police officer. The man informed her that her information on the National Population System was incomplete and asked her to update it via a link he sent on Zalo.

Trusting the man, she clicked on the link and followed his instructions, only to find out that VNĐ600 million (US$24,500) in her bank account disappeared a few days later.

Thành Đạt, a resident of Ba Đình Ward, Hanoi City, had a close call with a scam. He said he received a call from someone claiming to be an official in mid-January. He was informed that there was a problem with his VNeID app.

"The officer asked me to go to the municipal police station to meet Officer B., who would help me fix the problem," said Đạt.

Đạt told the man he was busy, so he would catch up with him soon. About 20 minutes later, he got a call from Officer B. urging him to come to meet him.

"When I said I couldn't come right away, B. insisted the problem was urgent and couldn't wait," said Đạt.

B. then asked Đạt to accept his friend request on Zalo so he could help him fix the problem online. However, Đạt refused to do what he said because suspected it was a scam.

According to the Cybersecurity and High-tech Crime Prevention Unit under the Police Department of Hanoi City, online scammers stole nearly VNĐ21 billion ($839,000) from their victims in January alone.

Their tricks are simple: they create fake apps that mimic the interface of the Public Service Portal and pretend to be local officers to deceive people into believing stuff like "your ID data isn't synced right" or "your health insurance info needs an update".

They then urge their victims to fix the problem right away using their apps, claiming that the police are in a hurry and need everything done on the same day. Once the victims fall for it and install the apps, they get access to their phones, stealing passwords, bank info, OTP and other confidential data.

The Police Department of Hanoi City has some tips to keep one safe from scams when they get a call from supposed officers.

First, they should avoid giving out information over the phone and contact local authorities immediately to confirm the identity of the callers.

Second, they should strictly follow the "Two NO's" rules: No clicking on links sent via messages and no installing apps of unknown sources.

If they do install apps, they should read the app details carefully and never agree to terms and conditions blindly. It is more secure to use only Google Play or Apple Store for downloads.

Third, they should add an extra layer of security to their bank accounts by using fingerprint or Face ID for login and never save their financial data on apps.

The police department has also spread the word on social media platforms and through SMS to keep people aware of the tricks scammers are using and how to avoid them.

But scammers are not just stopping at posing as police officers. They are making fake pages on Facebook to impersonate the cybersecurity watchdog itself. In December 2023, many such pages emerged and claimed to assist victims of online scams.

People, however, can easily tell a fake page from a genuine one: A fake one has much lower ratings and fewer reviews, and normally indicates that it is running ads.

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