Students trade passport info for cash
Debt-ridden Taiwanese students are falling prey to a syndicate which makes use of the particulars for fake travel documents
TAIPEI - Taiwanese students with credit-card debts are easy prey for a syndicate which offers them money for their particulars to apply for passports, which are then sold to illegal immigrants.
About 50 are believed to have sold their particulars - some of them more than once - for NT$40,000 (S$2,000).
At least 200 passports changed hands this way, wrote the United Daily News, which also claimed that it was the first such case reported in Taiwan.
Police managed to track down the syndicate and arrested two suspects, female travel agency operator Chen Mei-yu, 25, and Chiu Ti-pan, 37, an overseas Chinese from Thailand.
Police seized NT$2 million from Chiu's residence which they believed was used to pay these students, the report said.
Police also questioned seven students from the Ming Chuan University and the Aletheia University, and identified Taiwanese Chen Chi-wen and a Thai Chinese, Chou Hui-hung, as the syndicate's masterminds.
Both are still at large.
According to the daily, Chen Mei-yu allegedly joined the syndicate two years ago when she was still studying in Ming Chuan.
She made use of her network of contacts in the university to identify vulnerable 'targets' - students who needed money desperately to settle their credit-card debts.
Her accomplice, Chiu, would then apply for the travel documents on the students' behalf once they submitted their particulars.
The passports were later sent to Thailand where photographs of the students were replaced with those of illegal Chinese immigrants wanting to enter the United States, Australia or Japan.
Each forged passport was sold for as much as US$50,000 (S$88,000).
Some cash-strapped students even went so far as to report the 'loss' of the sold passports in a bid to get new ones - which could be traded for cash again.
The case first came to light last November after two mainland Chinese were caught using such passports at Taipei's Chiang Kai-shek International Airport.
Police investigations subsequently revealed that the forged documents had originated from the travel agency managed by Chen Mei-yu.
A police officer said Taiwanese college students were targeted because many needed money desperately to repay debts they had accrued from the overuse of their credit cards.
Craig! Good to see that the news guy is back.
Wow...that's scary...but passport fraud is a huge problem everywhere.
I saw your face in a crowded place and I don't know what to do
Dream as if you'll live forever. Live as if you'll die today.
Damn thieves. Make sure you're not a victim of ID theft. Protect yourself.
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