Police break in woman's door in bizarre phone scam case

Police break in woman's door who is on the phone to a scammer and has been convinced that those outside her apartment are bad people coming to take her away.

After one and a half hours of persuasion failed to convince a 20-year-old woman that she was on the phone to a telescammer, police had to break in her apartment door to prevent her from losing money in a bizarre case involving stolen identities, fake police warrants, and two million yuan.

The drama happened on Monday evening in a residential complex on Xiangyin Road, Wujiaochang Town.

The woman, surnamed Liu, is a university student from Hubei Province who is currently working as an intern at a company in Shanghai.

Liu got a phone call from an unknown number, seemingly from Beijing, early on Monday evening and was told that police suspected that her identity information was used in a crime of two million yuan.

The scammer, who sent her a short message with the picture of a fake police warrant with her picture on it, asked her to turn in 26,000 yuan (US$4,000) to ensure her safety, Liu said.

Police break in woman's door in bizarre phone scam case
Chen Huizhi / SHINE

A part of the call records with the scammer on Liu's mobile phone.

“I was astonished that they knew my ID data and had my photo, and that made me wonder how my identity information was leaked,” she said. “I was somehow convinced that I was in trouble.”

Meanwhile, police at Shanghai Telecommunications and Online Fraud Squad detected that someone who was probably a scammer was calling Liu from an overseas location, and informed their colleagues in Yangpu District.

A few police officers from the Wujiaochang Town Police Station were soon sent on a mission to dissuade the woman from falling for the trap.

Police officer Jiang Lei was one of those who arrived at Liu’s door, together with residential committee officials, at about 6:20pm.

Police break in woman's door in bizarre phone scam case
Chen Huizhi / SHINE

Officer Jiang Lei (left) and Liu talked to Shanghai Daily on Thursday morning.

They began to knock on the door and try to convince the woman that they were coming to save her from scammers.

“For one and a half hours, there was not a sound from inside, but we knew someone was there because a living room light had been turned off in the meantime, and the air conditioner was running,” he said.

Liu, who had locked herself inside, said she was scared and grew more uncertain about the intentions of the person on the phone and the people outside her door.

“The police came just when the scammer told me that some evil-intentioned people might come to take me away,” she recalled.

As a last resort, police organized for a locksmith to break open the door and entered the apartment at about 7:45pm.

“She told us that it was her boyfriend on the phone and I got to talk to the scammer,” Officer Jiang said. “I told the scammer that I’m a police officer and I’ll have to cut them off and take his girlfriend to the police station for investigation, and he said ‘alright’.”

Liu was still suspicious of the real police when she first found herself in the police station, but she decided to tell them what had happened to her, even though the scammer allegedly asked her not to tell anyone.

“I had a clear conscience, so why shouldn’t I try my luck to talk with people who might just be real police?” Liu said.

When everything was made clear, Liu said she learned the hard way.

“I had heard friends talking about telescams but never paid much attention,” she said. “I think I won’t take a stranger’s words this easily in the future, especially when they’re absolutely nonsense.”

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