Updated January. 25, 2014 06:19
The police put into custody two men, including one ethnic Korean from China identified only as Kim, on charges of stealing 90 million won (83,372 U.S. dollars) by changing online money transfer information at Nonghyup and Shinhan Bank in September and October last year. Eighty-one victims lost their money after their personal computers were infected with malware, a new hacking trick. The police are also investigating a group of voice phishing scammers who allegedly stole a total of 410 million won (379,805 dollars) by luring customers with low-interest loans. A series of financial scams have been uncovered at a time when 17 million people are anxious over their financial data stolen from Nonghyup Credit Card, KB Kookmin Card and Lotte Card.
Korea is under credit panic. The Changwon District Prosecutors` Office, which has arrested an outsourced security company employee for allegedly stealing 160 million pieces of customer information via a thumb drive, said that there was no evidence the stolen data had been leaked to others. However, the public remains jittery, finding it unbelievable that the financial data did not spread even one year after the leakage. Rumor among loan salespeople has it that information from the Korea Credit Bureau, a private credit rating company, is available in the market.
Nevertheless, Shin Je-yoon, chairman of the Finance Services Commission, declared that all the leaked information had been recovered and that there was no possibility of illegal usage, stressing that customers do not have to replace their current credit cards. Although the remarks were aimed at easing consumer anxiety, people do not buy what he said. Financial customers have been scrambling to queue up at credit card companies and banks to have their plastic money invalidated or replaced. Some even ask if they should replace their resident registration numbers now that all of their personal information had been leaked.
In the United States, it is not easy to get a credit card without sufficient credit. Sometimes, credit card users trying to make settlement in other states are often rejected without reporting their travel in advance, as credit card companies and banks strictly manage card payments to prevent use of stolen cards or leakage of information. It is unimaginable for an outsourced worker installing security software to steal the whole customer database from financial companies. The current crisis is a man-made disaster caused by local credit card companies` competition to attract more customers without paying enough attention to protection of financial data.
The public resentment against the financial authorities` avoidance of responsibility is showing no sign of abating. The situation should not be concluded simply with the dismissal of the chief executives of the three credit card companies. Without stern punishment, similar incidents can happen any time. Finance Minister Hyun Oh-seok, who blamed consumers for the stolen data, has lost public confidence as the country`s economic chief. Even the ruling Saenuri Party is urging the president to fire him. FSC Chairman Shin and Financial Supervisory Service Governor Choi Soo-hyun should also be held responsible after cleaning up the mess. The public`s anger will grow if the senior financial officials try to avoid their responsibility despite the massive financial disaster that has victimized almost the entire population.