China: Around The Nation

Chinese police arrest 14 suspects after 1 million yuan stolen from passengers in flight update scam

Guangzhou police investigate 34 different thefts of funds from travellers’ bank accounts

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 02 February, 2017, 2:14pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 02 February, 2017, 2:20pm

Chinese police have detained 14 people suspected of stealing more than one million yuan (HK$1.12 million) from unsuspecting air passengers after sending them bogus last-minute flight updates asking for their bank details, mainland media reported.

One victim of the scam had 43,000 yuan instantly transferred from his account, the news website reported.

Guangzhou police made the arrests in Danzhou, Hainan province, and Zhongshan, Guangdong province, on January 15 after investigating 34 different incidents of money being stolen from the bank accounts of airline passengers.

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A victim, surnamed Feng, received a text message on his mobile phone last November informing him that the flight he was due to take the next day from Guangzhou to Urumqi had been cancelled owing to a technical problem with the aircraft.

The message, which claimed to have been sent by the airline and provided correct details including his full name and flight details, said affected passengers would be given 300 yuan in compensation.

Feng rang a customer service phone number given in the message and was asked by the person answering the call to go to an ATM machine to carry out a refund procedure, which included inputting a particular security code.

However, police were quoted as saying in the report that the code number was actually the amount of money to be withdrawn from the bank accounts of the unsuspecting passengers.

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Feng called police immediately when he checked his bank account after the refund procedure and noticed that 43,000 yuan was missing and he had only 1,000 yuan left in his account.

The report did not explain how the suspects had obtained the telephone numbers or flight information of the victims.

Police advised the public to be aware of similar scams, especially around the Lunar New Year holiday period, when an estimated 2.98 billion trips were expected to be made by mainland travellers.

People were advised to always contact airline companies by using telephone numbers shown on official websites, the report said.