A male 12th-grader in Bac Ninh Province, east of Hanoi, is the alleged mastermind behind a Facebook phishing ring that has swindled more than 100 victims out of over VND10 billion (US$430,000).
Investigators in Bac Ninh brought legal proceedings against the 18-year-old gang leader, Pham Xuan Thai, and seven other individuals on charges of appropriation of property using computer networks, telecommunications networks, or other electronic devices.
The other people included Cao Dang Nhu, 25, and Le Viet Quy, 26, both in the north-central province of Quang Tri; Nguyen Van Dien, 23; Le Huu Quy, 27; Trinh Minh Vuong, 30; and Trinh Ha Son Binh, 34, all in the neighboring province of Thua Thien-Hue.
Police officers in the three provinces teamed up with the Criminal Police Department under the Vietnamese Ministry of Public Security to uncover the large-scale phishing operation on the social networking site Facebook and arrest the seven individuals.
The 12th-grade student Thai has a good grasp of information technology, so he set up several bogus websites pretending to be online polls for reality TV shows and places of interest in Vietnam among others.
When users signed up to vote, the scammers would obtain their login credentials, hijack their Facebook accounts, and later commit fraudulent acts to appropriate property.
Thai and his gang members also sent malicious links to Facebook users who were Vietnamese people living and working overseas.
The gang then escalated their efforts to trick people into clicking their fake bank links. While signing into what they thought were their own bank accounts, the victims would unknowingly provide their bank account details to the scammers.
Once the group had acquired the account holders’ passwords and one-time password codes, they would transfer all the money in the victims’ accounts to their own.
Thai would later transfer the illegal amounts of money to bank accounts provided by Nhu, Viet Quy, and Vuong.
Vuong would again transfer small sums of money to other accounts so that Dien, Huu Quy, and Binh could make ATM withdrawals.
For each successful scam, Thai would receive a whopping 70 percent of the illicit cash while others would enjoy a five- or ten-percent cut each.
So far this year, the ring had used a total of 14 fake bank accounts to acquire over VND10 billion from more than 100 victims in Vietnam, including several in Bac Ninh Province.
The case is under further investigation.
In June last year, four university students in the northern province of Thai Nguyen were prosecuted for hacking hundreds of websites of businesses that operate intermediary payment services and e-wallets.
They were found to have stolen around VND5 billion ($214,000).