China: Around The Nation

Two men accused of shared bike payment con in China

Pair alleged to have pasted false bar codes on hundreds of bikes to collect money meant to pay deposits or to use the bicycles

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 23 March, 2017, 12:25pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 23 March, 2017, 12:25pm

Two men have been arrested for conning people trying to hire shared bikes in two cities in eastern China as the increasingly popular service around the country falls victim to fraud schemes.

The men were accused of pasting fake barcodes on hundreds of bikes in Fuzhou in Fujian province and Ningbo in Zhejiang to mislead users into paying money into their account, the state-run news agency Xinhua reported.

Users normally have to scan the QR or Quick Response codes on shared bikes with their mobile phones to put down a deposit for the service or to hire the bicycle.

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The suspects charged users deposits of 99 yuan (US$14), 199 yuan and 299 yuan through the fake QR codes. They profited by 3,200 yuan from the scheme, the report said.

More than 70 users called the police or filed complaints to the bike companies after they found they were unable to unlock and use the bikes after paying deposits.

Many mainlanders have turned to shared bikes as alternative local transportation thanks to their convenience and low cost. They can pick them up for a ride for only one or two yuan per hour and leave them after arriving at their destinations.

But as the service gains popularity in major cities, criminals have also set their eyes on the bikes.

Tricks reported by mainland media include covering the original QR codes with fakes or putting other payment barcodes next to the real ones.

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Other criminals have opted for a cruder way to make money from the bikes.

A man in Chengdu in Sichuan province was arrested this month for dismantling shared bikes and selling them for scrap, the news website reported.

Police received a tip-off and found the man at a local salvage station selling the dismantled parts of three bikes from the Mobike and Ofo bike sharing companies.

The man said he was afraid people could tell he was selling stolen shared bikes if he sold them in one piece so came up with the idea of breaking them into parts.