A Vietnamese man capable of impersonating the voice of almost anyone has abused his talent and is now paying the price from inside a jail cell.
Trinh Duy Phuong, 27, was arrested on Thursday night, following a number of successful swindles via voice impersonation, the hi-tech police unit (C50) under the Ministry of Public Security confirmed later the same day.
Phuong has swindled business owners throughout the country, from the south-central province of Khanh Hoa to the southernmost province of Ca Mau, out huge amounts of money by calling companies and impersonating local leaders asking to borrow money.
The 27-year-old, who has a previous conviction for stealing assets, was nabbed while attempting to swindle a VND300 million (US$13,393) SH scooter in the southern province of Long An, according to C50 officers.
A C50 officer said even police were stunned by the voice impressionist’s talent for mimicking the voice of almost anyone, young or old, after only hearing their voice once.
“It is impossible to tell this voice impersonator from the real person, especially through the phone,” one police officer said.
Phuong carried out a number of successful scams and never stayed in the same place for too long, repeatedly relocating between hotels and acquaintances’ houses in southern Vietnam.
How did he do that?
According to police files, Phuong first used his voice impersonation scam in 2015, targeting victims in localities spanning from Khanh Hoa to Ca Mau, though only a few of the victims reported the fraud.
Phuong used the voices of local leaders, celebrities, and religious leaders to target companies he knew already had business or personal relations with those figures.
In the fraudulent phone calls, Phuong would tell the business owners that he was away on a business trip and one of his relatives had an accident and needed a huge amount of money. The con artist would then ask the businesses to lend him some money.
The victims, feeling ‘honored’ that the ‘leader’ had turned to them for help, transferred the money to the voice impersonator without hesitation.
Rather than use a personal bank account to receive the swindled money, Phuong placed expensive orders with electronics stores and requested to clear the payments via bank transfer.
The con artist would then ask the shop owners for their bank account information and have his victims transfer the money to these store accounts.
Once the money was transferred, the items were considered paid for and all Phuong had to do was pick up the electronics and resell to rake in easy money without ever having to disclose his bank account or leave a paper trail by withdrawing cash.
In other cases, Phuong would impersonate a local leader and make reservations for a large party “to welcome government leaders” at a restaurant. The ‘leader’ would insist that he transfer money to the restaurants, but the cross-bank transactions might take some time.
Phuong then physically visited the cheated restaurants, now in the guise of ‘a nephew of the leader’ authorized to oversee the party preparations.
He would then ask the restaurants for some cash to buy flowers and decorations for the party, on behalf of the ‘leader’ and immediately flee with the money.
C50 police said they are continuing their investigation into the case.