Thu, Sep 23, 2004 - Page 2 News List

Teenager goes `phishing,' ends up netted by police

By Jimmy Chuang  /  STAFF REPORTER

A teenage college student was arrested on charges of fraud yesterday after allegedly using an Internet "phishing" scam to hack into a bank account and steal money.

The student, who was only identified by his last name Wu, was arrested at his residence Tuesday night by officers from the Internet Crime Investigation Squad of the Criminal Investigation Bureau under the National Police Agency. The squad announced his arrest yesterday morning in a press release.

"Over the last two years we've been receiving reports regarding similar crimes. For Wu, we are still trying to figure out how long he has been doing this and how much money he has stolen," the press release said. "Frequent Internet surfers are more than welcome to visit www.antiphishing.org for more information about phishing scams so they can protect themselves," it said.

According to police, Wu became a hacker by studying on his own and reading computer-related books. His strategy was to forward "membership account confirmation letters" to victims and ask for the usernames and passwords of their bank or Internet accounts. Then, he would use this information to purchase products over the Internet or simply withdraw money through ATMs.

To gain access to his victims' computers, Wu would append a virus to an e-mail message. Once the victim opened his message, the virus would be activated, giving him complete access to their computer from a remote terminal.

The press release said the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation, Citibank, Bank of America and Yahoo had also been victims of Wu's fraud case.

The squad said in its press release that officers are planning to charge Wu with forgery and fraud before transferring the college student to the prosecutors' office for further interrogation.

As of press time yesterday, Internet Crime Investigation officers were still interrogating Wu to determine if there were additional individual or corporate victims.

Once prosecutors indict him, Wu's case will be heard in a juvenile court as he is under 18, the legal age in Taiwan.

"I would like to encourage frequent Internet surfers to keep their anti-virus software updated. The most important thing is ... do not open any suspicious e-mail messages that look unfamiliar to you," said Eric Lee (李相臣), head of the squad.

According to the Anti-Phishing Working Group, phishing attacks use "spoofed" e-mail messages and fraudulent Web sites to fool recipients into divulging personal financial data such as credit card numbers, account usernames and passwords and social security numbers.

By hijacking the trusted brands of well-known banks, online retailers and credit card companies, phishers are able to convince up to 5 percent of recipients to res-pond to them.

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