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Experience Sharing in Combating Cross-Border Telecommunications and Internet Fraud Crime in Taiwan

By Te-Hua Lin, Commissioner, Criminal Investigation Bureau, National Police Agency, Taiwan, Republic of China



ith years of experience in fighting telecommunication and Internet fraud crime, investigators in Taiwan have launched a financial management, telecommunications supervision, and crime investigation prevention plan as a preventative measure; however, to date the prevention plan has had little effect. Fraud syndicates continue to carry out cross-border remote swindles, leading fraud away from a single district crime area and toward regional orglobal areas of crime.

At present, the joint fraud-crime combat between Taiwan and the police of mainland China has been expanded to a third cross-border cooperation. Successful cross–Taiwan Strait (hereinafter cross-Strait) cooperation with Southeast Asian countries, such as in the following operations: 0310, 0928, 1129, 0823, 1206, have proved that there is no geographical restriction regarding the combating of crime.1 In the 21st century’s new era of global governance, investigators in Taiwan hope to combat cross-border crime together with global police forces to establish a new paradigm to combat crime and ensure the safety of people’s property.


Background

While entering the 21st century, phenomena such as the rapid development of digital technology and global warming broke the existing national and regional natural limitations, thereby affecting political, economic, social, and cultural patterns. The various problems that have formed cannot be solved by a single region or country alone, but must go beyond the limits of country and regional borders. The problems can be faced and solved with cooperation among the forces of a number of regions and organizations.

Fraud has been emerging in Taiwan since 2000. Fraud syndicates operate via Internet e-mail, cellphone text messages, and the latest developments in technology combined with current technologies such as telecommunications, Internet, telephone, financial accounts, Internet telephony, and shopping sites and also by changing incoming call numbers from abroad, for example, changing the calling number into the number of an official authority or well-known online shopping auction by VOIP (voice over Internet protocol) Gateway as a transit route to forward incoming calls from other countries to Taiwan. Lifting ATM installments, auctions, prosecutor and police pretenders, hybrid combinations of counter withdrawals, and game point frauds on MSN are the five new emerging areas of mainstream fraud.

From 2010 to date, Internet hackers have been able to invade and steal private personal information using those methods, making cases more complicated and difficult to trace. Since communication systems forward to the Internet and other communication systems, not only are the perpetrator’s account number and identity concealed, but the IP address is also concealed by such technology and thus hidden abroad.


Fraud Syndicates

The syndicates use a system of performance management that includes bonuses and the crime task division is organized systematically and with a company prototype. The operations are low-risk, low-investment, and low criminal liability but offer high rewards.

A well-organized management structure adopts level management and a thorough division of labor; human resources from each labor division do not know each other. The group is divided into the core area, management headquarters, financial groups, telecommunications group, and Internet group. New members are recruited to be trained in different divisions of the syndicates and be stationed everywhere for fraud operations in the field. Senior members of the fraud syndicate may pass on the fraud experience for the replication of fraudulent practices and establish to another fraud syndicate in order to commit the same type of crime. New members are also easily sourced when downstream members are seized by the police.

The cross-border crimes can be set up remotely by erecting an illegal telecommunications room, Internet telephony, second-class telecommunications, and a variety of information and communication technologies for directing the withdrawer to take the money out in Taiwan. Such innovative methods master the mental weaknesses of human nature, such as greed, nervousness, fear, the feeling of being lost, as well as insufficient analytical thinking. This creates a situation in which a carefully designed plot lures victims into a trap from which they subsequently cannot extricate themselves.


Fighting Fraud

Since 2004, the Taiwanese government has integrated various resources and established interagency platform meetings with the cooperation of the competent authorities of policing, legal, telecommunications, financial services, the Internet, and the industry itself. This was carried out in order to strengthen various countermeasures regarding the following six directions, which champions the approach of “solving the problem from both the cause and the result with both of the pertinent methods.”2

Management is strengthened through cross-ministerial integration meetings and regulation revisions to construct a joint security defense mechanism.

Detection focuses on strengthening the techniques and methods of fraud investigation to integrate all information and cooperation to expand the investigation.

Telecommunications is built around eliminating telecommunication fraud tools, blocking call traffic sources, and building a safe telecommunications environment.

Constructing an Internet network security management mechanism is a priority to promote short-, medium- and long-term programs of cybercrime prevention.

Financially, the implementation of account alert mechanisms is an important aspect of strengthening the awareness of bank counters who can attempt to hinder fraud.

Prevention is key, and setting up 165 anti-fraud hotlines with the successful implementation of anti-fraud e-networks pushes the effectiveness of cross-authority defense and strengthens overall anti-fraud immunity with a diverse policy advocacy.


Cross-Strait Operations

Since the fraud surge emerged in Taiwan in 2000, the reported case numbers from 2004 to 2008 have been more than 40,000 per year. Since the second half of 2009, mainland China has cooperated with Taiwan in order to combat fraud, leading to the number of reported cases dropping to 38,802. The number of fraud cases in Taiwan decreased by 45 percent after Operation 1011 and by 52 percent after Operation 0810, showing that each action had effectively deterred fraud syndicates from engaging in cross-Strait fraud.

In 2010, Operation 1011 and Operation 0810 cross-border fraud syndicate cases were solved with cooperation between the police forces of China and Taiwan, leaving the number of reported cases at 28,494. This successfully removed the fraud syndicates’ traffic, engine rooms, and telecommunications platforms out from the Strait and forced them to flee elsewhere. The number dropped again in 2011 to 23,855, which means that we have successfully returned the number of fraud cases in Taiwan to what it was before the surge.

In Taiwan, the annual average fiscal loss due to fraud amounts was more than NT$10 billion from 2005 to 2009. However, that amount has been reduced to NT$6.12 billion—the first time that it has been fewer than NT$10 billion since 2005. In 2011, the fraud fiscal loss amount dropped to NT$4.98 billion.3

After the Cross-Strait Joint Crime Combat and Mutual Legal Assistance Agreement (hereinafter referred to as the Agreement) was signed and came into effect during the third cross-Strait Jiang-Chen meeting in 2009, both the Taiwanese and Chinese police forces implemented the Agreement and have established cooperation mechanisms. In September 2009, the Operation 0908 case and the first instance of cooperation in combating crime were implemented in Taiwan and mainland China simultaneously. Forty-three suspects were apprehended in Taiwan; in addition, eight Taiwan organized crime heads and a few Chinese accomplices were arrested in mainland China. Further cooperation followed in 2010 in the large-scale voperations 0519, 1011, and 0810—during which several thousand cross-Strait police officers were appointed to perform the seizure. They found hundreds of telecommunications platforms (engine rooms); money-laundering pipelines; and strongholds across the Strait and successfully arrested nearly 800 fraud-related criminals.

Chief suspects and accomplices of telecom Internet fraud syndicates in Taiwan first moved their bases to China and set up a three-line traffic platform to continue fraud and evade the Taiwan Police. However, the cross-Strait cooperative projects forced them to move once again, this time to Southeast Asian countries. Thus, the cross-Strait police pondered cooperation on combating the crime with police from a third country.

The Ministry of Public Security in China invited the chief of Taiwan’s Criminal Investigation Bureau, Te-Hua Lin, to go to China with relevant personnel for five consultation meetings to ensure that the cross-Strait police were able to solve the fraud cases occurring in the cross-Strait area and in a third country, to coordinate and jointly investigate, and to reach a consensus as a legal set code. This became known as Operation 0310.

Operation 0310 In April 2011, the Criminal Investigation Bureau in Taiwan invited the Deputy Secretary from the Ministry of Public Security, Liao Jin-Rong of the Criminal Investigation Bureau, and project group personnel to Taiwan to discuss labor division.

In April and May 2011, the first cooperation between the Taiwanese and Vietnamese police was launched; it was three times that of the fraud syndicate investigation and resulted in the arrest of a total of 94 suspects associated with Operation 0310. It also laid a good foundation for the follow-up synchronized raids between cross-Strait police and those of six other countries.4

On June 9, 2011, the police of Taiwan and China cooperated with six Southeast Asian counties on the biggest-ever crackdown with comprehensive synchronized raids of 161 illegal telecommunication lines, fraud traffic platforms, money laundering centers, call centers, and other bases in Taiwan, China, Indonesia, Cambodia, Malaysia, and Thailand. A total of 598 fraud-crime syndicate members were seized, the most suspects ever seized in a cross-border cooperative operation in the fight against crime. It was a real slap in the face for fraud-related crimes.

Thanks to the criminal intelligence exchange between cross-Strait police, investigation cooperation, and co-tracing the crime source and cause of cross-Strait fraud syndicates, Operation 0310 successfully established a new type of police cooperation model, setting a new paradigm for cooperative combat against cross-border crime. After Operation 0310 raids, the number of frauds occurring in Taiwan dropped by 26 percent. Cross-border fraud syndicates were collapsing under the cooperative efforts of the cross-Strait police and law enforcement in six Southeast Asian countries.

In this crackdown, hundreds of Taiwanese suspects were repatriated in a chartered flight thanks to the cooperation of cross-Strait police and the forces of Cambodia and Indonesia. Under the hotline broadcast by the Taiwanese media, an enthusiastic response came from places all over Taiwan, including leading Taiwanese media outlets and the government. People felt a strong sense of achievement regarding the outcome of Operation 0310 by cross-Strait police and third countries.

Operation 0928 Following the ideals of Operation 0310, cross-Strait police on September 28, 2011, with the police forces of seven countries: Indonesia, Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, and the Philippines, worked to combat fraud syndicates through Operation 0928 to comprehensively crack down on fraud syndicates in 166 locations in Taiwan, China, and nine other countries with a total of 827 suspects arrested.5

Operation 1129 On May 23 and 24, 2012, Taiwanese police and police from Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and Fiji implemented Operation 1129 to combat fraud syndicates in Taiwan, China, and eight other countries with a total of 484 suspects from fraud syndicates arrested.6 On August 23, Taiwanese and Philippine police seized 385 fraud suspects, of which 279 Taiwanese suspects were repatriated on two chartered flights, a record for the highest number of repatriated suspects in a single case to date.

Operation 1206. Taiwanese and Chinese police began synchronized implementation of Operation 1206 with the Indonesian and Vietnamese police on December 6, 2012, to combat fraud. A total of 159 suspects were arrested.


International Cooperation

The harm that crime causes to social order is a common global problem. The International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) clearly expressed the concept that, in accordance with the spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the possible mutual aid between criminal police marshals should be ensured and promoted in order to effectively prevent and deter criminal activity, as well as to establish and develop the purpose of the International Criminal Police Organization within the law in different countries and never engage in any political, military, religious, or racial intervention or activities.7

Minister Meng of China also underlined the concept that “cross-Strait joint crime combating should not involve political factors or territorial restrictions,” revealing that crime combating is not restricted to region, sovereignty, and political values and concepts. However, due to professional cross-domain estrangements and legal differences among countries, international crime-fighting cooperation is not yet settled, allowing the guilty to flee across borders and global crime to rampage.

Because differences exist among various government organizations, joint work between two governments (or two different branches within one government) often encounters the following major obstacles: contact, communication, coordination, and cooperation. To avoid such a situation from occurring, the Criminal Police Department in Taiwan launched an internal integration of fraudcombating operations in August 2009.


Criminal Police Department Integration

The department has the office business support field investigation, research and development, and information departments and provides the technology needed to combat crime with a strong investigative team integrated from a total of 10 investigative core teams. The investigative energy of all police departments in every city and county in Taiwan was integrated at the end of 2009, and a substantial adjustment was made to the investigative tactics of the various police agencies, which involved changing solo investigations into teamwork.

Through the central government and the various integrated police agencies, the Criminal Investigation Bureau will be able to lead all police agencies to integrate intelligence, technical support, and cooperation and to expand the investigation team to work together, without distinction and with a common goal, laying down the foundations for future cross-border police cooperation.

The cooperation of cross-border police in combating crime started with the concept of police to police. Police from two regions show goodwill and sincerity toward one another, foster professional accomplishment and a high level of intelligence, reveal an enthusiasm for working together and in an environment of mutual respect, receive mutual benefits, and show the reciprocity needed to accelerate the efficiency of cases by working to exchange intelligence, to cooperate in joint investigations, and to develop a synergistic effect.

If the case occurs in another country, police shall appoint project stem members to investigate with the local law enforcement agencies and implement large-scale raids. While completing the investigation, the two parties shall repatriate suspects for investigation after taking into account the local laws and norms.

Cross-Strait police signed the Agreement in 2009, and operations 0908, 0519, 1011, and 0810 were implemented under joint effort. Hundreds of illegal telecommunication platforms, money-laundering pipelines, and strongholds in China and Taiwan were subjected to comprehensive, synchronized raids with thousands of chief suspects and members of the fraud syndicates successfully arrested and nearly 100 million criminal incomes found. The cases established good working practice for cross-border police cooperation. The experience in combating crime with Southeast Asian countries, indicates police cooperation on combating crime may be extended from one place to another.

Taiwan’s cross-border telecommunication and Internet fraud has spread to China and other countries in East and South Asia. The problem may also spread to other countries in Europe and the Americas in the future and consequently affect people everywhere. Thus, the efforts and cooperation from all countries are urgently needed to allow the European Union and Interpol to prevent cross-border fraud.

Joint crime-fighting can be successfully achieved through a concept of global governance, which is multiplatform and contains four methods. The core concept of police cooperation and global thinking, but local implementation is key.


Cooperation Is Key

The trend of cross-border Internet crime has become a worldwide problem. It cannot be solved by a single country alone. In facing this new generation of crime, differences must be put aside, hard facts recognized, and sovereign barriers avoided to create a win-win situation under the concept of combating crime without territorial or political restrictions, one which is based upon the idea of not affecting the rights, ruling, or organizational structure of a country. This ideal can be achieved with the principles of mutual respect and reciprocity that maximizes the mutual aid among different police organizations, launches active cooperative investigations, fosters professionalism, demonstrates work ethics, exercises wisdom, and upholds justice in effectively preventing crime; thus, establishing a new paradigm of international police cooperation in combating crime.

Multiplatform Although Interpol continues operations, mutual legal assistance procedures can cause delay because of the mutual legal assistance agreements in criminal matters previously signed between countries, which delays the transmission of intelligence and squanders investigative opportunities. Thus, it is appropriate to separate mutual legal assistance and crime-combating issues with the “Joint Crime Combating of Police Cooperation Agreement” signed in order to build an integrated platform for cross-domain cooperation by police cooperation modes and establish formal links for both sides to use as a fast and convenient channel for criminal status communications, assistance in investigations, and joint investigations. Substantial benefits from the cooperation process can be obtained by the participating members, which would increase their incentive and strengthen mutual trust and cooperation during joint operations.

Four methods The first method is the establishment of intelligence exchange. Intelligence is the beginning of every investigation, and intelligence exchanges must be rapid if a timely response, prevention, or search is to be gained. Currently, there is also a cooperation mode by police from two or more countries in addition to using the existing channels of the Interpol for intelligence exchange. This cooperation resolves the intelligence needs of cross-border crime combating with the most rapid intelligence exchange pipelines and the formation of a tight-knit intelligence network for law and order protection.

The second method is cooperative investigation and synchronized action. Investigation of cross-border crime often involves the restriction that the national governance rights and jurisdiction cannot be extended to a third country; therefore, project personnel from both countries and the local police should form a jointproject team when investigating cross-border crime involving multiple countries for synchronous investigation of members of fraud syndicates, searching relevant crime strongholds, achieving spoils exhibits, and thoroughly disrupting the criminal organization structure—highlighting the importance and value of a global governance police cooperation.

The third method is assistance in the investigation of criminal facts. The implementation of justice shall be based on the complete collection of criminal evidence. The common goal of combating crime requires the investigation of criminal facts and strong evidence. Therefore, cooperating countries must agree to assist in both the investigation and the collection of evidence, as well as observing the laws and regulations of each country or territory, based on the specific intelligence that has been provided.

Finally, the fourth method is the increased exchanges between police and academics. Police cooperation under global governance should have both quality and quantity and strengthen police and academic exchange visits in order to gain knowledge of legal systems, exchange information, organize relevant meetings or transactional talks, reach a consensus on cooperation, and build a strong, joint crime combating network.


Conclusion

Telecommunication and Internet fraud in the 21st century cannot be solved by one region alone. Facing the issues of globalization, police forces around the world should search for a way in which to completely solve the problem of integrating each others’ resources in order to combat cross-border fraud together. The author of this article hopes to incite a “butterfly effect” by reporting the successful experience of cross-Strait and cross-border cooperation in East and South Asia. With globalization in mind, it is hoped that a whirlwind of cross-border global police cooperation will be put into practice in the not too distant future.  ♦


Notes:

1Opening Up and Guarding the Country: Benefits of the 16 Cross-Strait Agreements (Mainland Affairs Council, June 2012), www.mac.gov.tw/public/Data/2101911582271.pdf; and Office of Information Services, Executive Yuan, “Premier Praises Fraud Investigators, Urges Vigilance against Drunk Driving and Student Drug Abuse,” press release, June 26, 2012, http://www.ey.gov.tw/pda_en/News_Content.aspx?n=1C6028CA080A27B3&sms=E0588283EFAA02AD&s=B434B85F768501AC (both accessed June 25, 2013).
2“Solving the problem from both the cause and the result with both of the pertinent methods,” is a translation of a Chinese proverb.
3Opening Up and Guarding the Country, 16–17.
4Ibid.
5Ibid., 16.
6Mainland Affairs Council, “Benefits of the 18 Cross-Straits Agreement,” press release, December 19, 2012.
7See Articles I and II of the ICPO-Interpol Constitution, which canbe accessed through this webpage www.interpol.int/About-INTERPOL/Legal-materials/Human-rights (accessed June 27, 2013).


Please cite as:

Te-Hua Lin, "Experience Sharing in Combating Cross-Border Telecommunications and Internet Fraud Crime in Taiwan," The Police Chief 80 (August 2013): 70–73.

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From The Police Chief, vol. LXXX, no. 8, August 2013. Copyright held by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, 515 North Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 USA.








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