Vietnamese arrested for stealing $400,000 through 'free' apps

By Ha An - Truong Son, Thanh Nien News

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Photo credit: Dan Tri Photo credit: Dan Tri

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Hanoi police said on Monday they had arrested a man who helped telecom companies and his digital content company steal VND9 billion (US$423,000) from cell phone users through free game and porn apps.
Nguyen Tuan Anh, 29, the former head of sales for the digital content company IMMC, was accused of committing cyber fraud to steal money from more than 800,000 users.
Investigators found IMMC assigned Anh to build cell phone apps. Police say he hired a team to set up 200 porn apps and more than 100 game apps that automatically transferred funds from the cell phones of users into the company’s account.
Each download automatically cost users up to VND15,000, despite the fact that the apps were advertised as being free.
Anh disguised the deductions as SMS charges assigned to ten fake numbers; the transactions went undetected by users.
The telecommunication companies received more than half of the proceeds from the scheme and Anh's company received 40 percent.
His team also opened a Facebook page called Mmoney last July. The page promised to share revenues with people who promoted the apps.
Despite the illicit profits they reaped, representatives from telecom companies -- of which state-owned MobiFone and VinaPhone and military-run Viettel are dominant -- said they had no responsibility for problems related to mobile content, as stated in their contracts with digital content providers.
A source from VinaPhone told Tuoi Tre newspaper they can help by returning money to the victims and blocking the numbers the content providers were using to steal from users.
Last April, Hanoi police also arrested four people for using a similar scam to steal more than VND2 billion from more than 100,000 cell phone users.
The police also recently cooperated with Hanoi telecommunication authorities to bust the missed call scam at Vietnam 3G Telecommunication JSC, which deducted money from people’s accounts when they called back unknown numbers.
The company programmed their computers to make 100,000 missed calls to cell phones a day.
Victims said they usually called the land line numbers worrying that the calls had been made by their employers or some sort of official.
But once they did, their accounts were automatically charged VND5,000 a minute while they listened to a programmed female voice asking them to call a service number to make friends or listen to a song gifted by a secret admirer.
A victim named Vu told news website Dan Tri he lost VND15,000 (around US75 cents) after listening to a single song.
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