Phone Scam Promises Gov’t Positions for Cash

Prime Minister Hun Sen’s cabinet on Wednesday alerted government officials nationwide of a scam that requests money be sent via mobile phone in exchange for a promotion.

According to a statement issued by the cabinet, an unknown number of officials received phone calls from men who claimed to work for Mr. Hun Sen and asked that cash be paid via the local mobile-payment company Wing in exchange for promotions.

“Lately, offenders have been cheating provincial and municipal officials and armed forces personnel through phone calls by saying that they work for the cabinet of Samdech Techo Prime Minister,” says the brief statement, signed by Cabinet Chief Ho Sithy.

“Then, [they] say they can offer ranks or post promotions, but to run the paperwork, they request money be sent through the Wing system,” it continues.

“The cabinet informs provincial and municipal officials and armed forces to be careful with evil acts. If you receive a call from someone who claims to be a cabinet official and asks for the transference of a sum of money for some affairs, please contact the cabinet first.”

The statement did not say how long the scam has operated, how officials were made aware of the scam, or whether any officials did pay thinking that they would be promoted.

Officials in Mr. Hun Sen’s cabinet declined to comment Wednesday and those at the Anti-Corruption Unit could not be reached.

Wing CEO Anthony Perkins said he was unaware of the scam involving Mr. Hun Sen’s cabinet, but that Wing has taken precautions against scammers.

“We’ve done public TV and radio slots where representatives are interviewed and explain scams,” Mr. Perkins said. “We’ve posted online and at Wing Cash Xpress outlets a campaign telling customers not to send money to people you don’t know.

“Wing Cash Xpress agents also are trained how to ask customers about their transactions and track criminal activity. The Xpress outlets also have CCTV cameras.”

Mr. Perkins said that of the three million transactions Wing does a month, one or two are logged as possible fraud cases. He said the fraud cases tend to range between $10 to less than $2,000.

“The largest one reported was $1,200,” he said, adding that education remained key to stopping the scammers.

“It’s just a case of taking the time to educate the population about the scam. We’re doing the best we can, but at the end of the day, when someone falls for a scam, it is hard to recover the money.”

Phone scams involving money exchanges are not new in Cambodia. Last year, a 42-year-old man from Ratanakkiri province fell victim to a scam where he was told to transfer two million riel, or about $500, through Wing to receive a lottery reward of $5,000.

A Cambodian Television Network show last week also informed viewers about how to detect fraud and featured a woman who almost fell victim to a phone scam, but avoided it after her husband demanded to meet the caller.

naren@cambodiadaily.com, wilwohl@cambodiadaily.com

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