Sat, Jan 15, 2005 - Page 2 News List

Web crime has consequences: police

E-FRAUD Internet fraudsters who take advantage of people seeking lodging villas could face prison, police warned after reporting an increase in bogus Web sites

By Jimmy Chuang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Law enforcement officers yesterday said that whoever is behind the construction of Web sites offering bogus private lodging villas will face a potential seven-years in jail and a fine.

"According to Article 339 of the Criminal Code, the [fake villa] cases will result in a jail term of more than one year but less than seven years and a fine of no more than NT$50,000 for the perpetrators," the Ministry of Justice said in a statement.

The statement referred to police statistics which showed that Web sites offering fake private lodging villas were on the increase.

In Taiwan, private lodging villas are small buildings or town houses rented out by their owners to short-term visitors at rates much cheaper than hotels.

Police said they have received an increasing number of reports of patrons booking rooms on Web sites offering accommodations, only to find out later the accommodations did not exist. The Web sites in question would require visitors to pre-pay for a room via credit card.

Police also said that the Web sites offering fake villa rooms looked genuine, with detailed information, photos and room rates. Potential visitors would eventually discover that they had been cheated when they arrived at the address given on the Web site.

"Most of these fake lodging villas offer addresses in Hualien and Nantou counties because it would be difficult for visitors to do first-hand research on the location before people go on their trip," said Lo Shih-hai (羅士海) of the Taichung County Police Department's Kukuan police station.

Lo said that most of the addresses, photos and names were all fake. Victims will not be able to get their money back once they process transactions over the Internet.

"I have personally dealt with four victims," Lo said. "They came all the way from Taipei and were looking for a Spring Valley Villa, supposedly located at 27 Tungkuan Rd. However, no such road exists."

Hualien County Police Department said that there are currently at least 10 Web sites offering bogus accommodation. When Web surfers type in "private lodging villas" or related words in Chinese on major search engines, the search engines will automatically direct surfers to these fraudulent Web sites.

"I would urge potential visitors to visit the Web sites of real villas, or government Web sites for more information on the villas. Information there will be reliable," said Fu Hung-yuan (傅泓源), chairman of the Nantou County Private Lodging Association.

"You can also call local police stations to confirm whether there is such a villa," Fu added.

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