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Shenzhen startup Pujiang Tech launches app to catch out phone scammers

The team of young innovators took just two weeks to develop the free app that aims to help tackle a widespread problem in China

PUBLISHED : Monday, 19 September, 2016, 5:07pm
UPDATED : Monday, 19 September, 2016, 10:30pm

A Shenzhen-based tech startup has developed and launched an app designed to combat the growing problem of Chinese phone scammers, after hearing the tragic consequences of a recent case.

Late last month, the team at Pujiang Tech were shocked to hear the case of a Chinese student who died of a heart attack after she was swindled out of 9,900 yuan she had been intending to pay her tuition fees with.

Feeling they needed to do something to prevent similar tragedies, the four men - all in their early twenties - worked day and night for two weeks to develop an app to help people spot phone scammers.

The result - a free app for Android, called Vanguard Against Scammers - automatically records any call from an unrecognised phone number and stores it on the phone for up to 72 hours. Users can then share the recorded content via social media if they suspect a scam.

The app is designed to expose every new kind of scam to the public
Zeng Zhao, founder, Pujiang Tech

“The app is designed to expose every new kind of scam to the public in time,” said Zeng Zhao, 26, who founded Pujiang Tech in March to develop educational games and software.

“Students and elderly people could use the app as a way to seek advice and tips when they receive strange calls that, for example, ask them for their bank account details.”

Zeng said the team is working to upgrade the app with further functions, such as the ability to pinpoint where the scammers are calling from.

“We also hope the app will be able to send a message to deter the phone scammer, like ‘Hey, you are being watched and your voice is being recorded for the police.’

“We work for it voluntarily, and it will be free forever for the public. We hope more tech talents and companies will join us and contribute their efforts society and to improve people’s lives. The more people use the app, the more scamming operations would be uncovered and exposed.”

They’ve used technology very quickly and effectively against an emerging form of fraud. This is truly innovation for the people
Yang Qin, a Shenzhen People’s Congress deputy

Yang Qin, a Shenzhen People’s Congress deputy, praised Pujiang Tech’s work and hailed it as an example of “the spirit of Shenzhen in innovation”.

He said: “They’ve used technology very quickly and effectively against an emerging form of fraud. This is truly innovation for the people.”

Recent telephone scams that targeted university students and teachers, resulting in some taking their own lives after being cheated, have shocked the public.

In one of the most tragic cases, Xu Yuyu, an 18-year-old student from a poor family in Shandong province, received a phone call from somebody claiming to be from the Ministry of Education and asking her to pay her tuition fees into what was later found to be the swindler’s account. Two days later Xu fell seriously ill and died of a heart attack in hospital .

In another case earlier this month, Duan Jinke, a university student in Changchun, Jilin province, apparently took his own life after being scammed out of 5,000 yuan that his impoverished family in Yunnan had scraped together for his tuition.

Telephone scams are a growing problem in China. In 2015, a total of more than 590,000 telecom frauds nationwide netted 22.2 billion yuan, according to news website people.com.cn, leaving many families destitute.

About 20,000 suspects from 2,900 phone scam gangs have been detained so far this year in a nationwide investigation of more than 44,000 cases, according to the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau.