The Korea Herald


Koreans lost nearly W1.7tr to phishing scams over past 5 years: data

By Park Jun-hee

Published : Feb. 21, 2023 - 14:28

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Fraudulent phone calls and text messages, also known as phishing, in South Korea have caused nearly 1.7 trillion won ($1.3 billion) in damage over the past five years, data showed Tuesday.

According to data received by Rep. Kang Min-kuk of the People Power Party from the Financial Supervisory Service, a total of 227,126 scams were reported from 2018 to 2022, and the expense of reported loss from these scams was some 1.66 trillion won, with the number of such crimes seeing an uptake since 2020.

Voice phishing uses fraudulent phone calls to deceive people into giving money by disclosing their personal information, such as their personal passwords or security codes, over the phone, allowing fraudsters to gain access to their bank accounts. Text message phishing, also dubbed “smishing,” happens through SMS or email.

More than 60 percent were victimized by scammers claiming they would help them with loans, which accounted for nearly 1 trillion won of the phishing damage. Some 22.8 percent of phone call fraudsters preyed on people by impersonating public institutions, while 17.1 percent of the crimes were carried out over mobile text messages by impersonating the victims’ acquaintances.

In particular, the amount of damages from cyber-related text message phishing scams tripled from 37.3 billion won in 2020 to 92.7 billion won in 2022, the phishing victims having lost 284.9 billion won through the same type of scams last year. Text message phishing accounted for 89 percent of the total scams, or 25,534 cases, last year. The data also found that most of the fraud occurred through Kakao Talk, the country’s top mobile messenger.

Rep. Kang Min-kuk urged related financial authorities to come up with proper countermeasures to protect victims against phishing frauds, citing that money transfer scams, especially those happening by manipulating text messages, have surged over the past three years.

As a rapid rise in phishing scams is catching South Korea off guard, the Ministry of Science and ICT adopted new programs in December last year to block phone number spoofing and to help people avoid phishing scams by reporting them to the authorities through their smartphones.