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Cybercrime Crackdown Yields 357 Arrests in Philippines

On Thursday, law enforcement officials with the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) and the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC) in the Philippines arrested more than 300 in a cybercrime sweep. The arrests took place in several subdivisions, and the operation is being hailed as the biggest cybercrime operation in the nation’s history.

According to a press release from the CIDG, working alongside elements from the PAOCC, the two agencies arrested 357 nationals, mostly Taiwanese and Mainland Chinese, when they raided 20 residential units in several subdivisions located in Quezon City, Manila, Marikina, Cainta, and Antipolo Cities where the foreigners were rounded up.

The sweep was aimed at stopping a scam that initiated in China, where the group would call unsuspecting victims in China and introduce themselves as members of Chinese police. From there the victim would be told that their bank accounts were being used to launder money, or other terrorist funding, and be advised to move their funds to a safe account that the police provided.

Given that no one wanted to upset the police, many of the victims agreed immediately. A similar scam took place in China earlier this year, but Chinese authorities broke it up – arresting 37 people in the process. In order to continue the operation, those who remained free from the law moved outside of the borders and established a new base of operations.

Among those arrested on Thursday are two people thought to be the ringleaders of the scam, identified as Maria Luisa Tan and Jonson Tan Co.

All the suspects were brought to the Police National Training Institute (PNTI) in Camp Vicente Lim, Laguna, the CIDG statement explained. Presently, all 357 of them are waiting while charges for violation of the Access Device Act are compiled.

Steve Ragan is a security reporter and contributor for SecurityWeek. Prior to joining the journalism world in 2005, he spent 15 years as a freelance IT contractor focused on endpoint security and security training.