White-label cellphones manufactured in a Chinese factory are believed to contain Trojan software that enables fraudsters to set up mobile game accounts using the owners’ phone numbers, police said on Saturday, with nearly 100 older people affected so far.
After receiving a number of complaints from local branches over the past few months, the National Police Agency launched an investigation into the mobile game points-for-cash scam.
The fraudsters would pose as women online to persuade people to buy game point cards at supermarkets and load the points into accounts created with the cellphone users’ phone numbers before requesting cash refunds from the game company.
The agency said that it traced most of the numbers to low-tech cellphones owned by older people who had never downloaded or even heard of the game.
Investigators then traced the phones to a white-label cellphone factory in China, which they suspect loaded Trojan software onto the devices that were sold in Taiwan with Taiwanese branding, unbeknownst to telecoms.
Investigators believe the fraudsters registered accounts using phone numbers held by people with the modified devices.
Once a confirmation code is sent by text message, the Trojan software would automatically forward it to the fraudster to complete setting up the account.
Most of the game accounts were registered with foreign IP addresses, limiting investigators’ ability to trace them, the agency said.
At this point, the only course of action is to hand over the owners of the phone numbers to prosecutors to determine if any laws were contravened, it added.
The agency said that it has contacted the game company in the hopes of disabling the ability to store points in foreign accounts, while the nation’s telecoms have been instructed to address the issue.
Aside from exercising caution when purchasing Chinese-made mobile phones, the agency offered some tips for avoiding malicious software or similar types of fraud.
If a cellphone user only plans to make and receive calls, the agency recommends contacting their telecom provider to disable text messaging to prevent bad actors from setting up accounts linked to their number.
A compromised phone or computer often displays signs such as increased battery usage or slow functionality, or would show a program that the user did not download, it said, adding that sometimes it disables or uninstalls antivirus software.
In addition, if someone’s device sends out e-mails to their contact list, is unable to download or run applications, displays an abnormal number of pop-ups, suddenly loses signal or cannot make or receive calls or messages, it might have a virus or be otherwise compromised, the agency said.
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