image image

Scams and swindles

Chinese police net thousands in crackdown on phone, online scams

Public security authorities target personal data leaks as criminals increasing turn to hi-tech methods to gain information

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 21 July, 2016, 7:55pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 16 January, 2018, 3:44pm

Chinese authorities arrested more than double the number of suspected phone and internet con men in the first half of the year compared to a year earlier amid a national crackdown on the crimes.

Police cleared about 57,000 scam cases and arrested 28,000 people, according to the Ministry of Public Security website.

In addition, more than 370,000 bank accounts and 350,000 telephone numbers used in the scams were closed.

The ministry said a major focus over the last three months had been illegal leaks of personal data online, now rampant across the country.

Widespread online leaks of personal information in China prompt new data collection laws

Earlier this month, nearly 300 HIV/Aids patients reported to a domestic NGO that they received phone calls from people offering them thousands of yuan in subsidies in return for payment of “commissions”. The callers had extensive knowledge of the patients’ personal information. The national disease control and prevention authority reported the case to police.

Blood money: Chinese phone scammers target HIV/Aids carriers in data leak

Vice-Minister of Public Security Li Wei urged officers to press on with the crackdown and improve their capacity to bust overseas-based rings.

Chinese police should expand cooperation with foreign counterparts and organise more crackdowns overseas, Li said.

He also said provincial-level police authorities should send investigators to rural hot spots home to a high number of people involved in the fraudulent activities.

Numerous cases involving the infringement of people’s personal information had occurred despite the strengthened police focus on such crimes, the ministry said.

How rampant phone scams highlight China’s need for tighter privacy laws

Criminals not only accessed people’s identity numbers, telephone numbers and home addresses, but also obtained their internet accounts and passwords, bank accounts and passwords, shopping records and driving records.

A “black” industry chain had formed starting with those who sourced the personal details, through middlemen to those who used the information fraudulently, the ministry said.

Leaks of such personal information by employees at some government departments, service organisations and private companies had become less common, the ministry website said.

Instead, criminals were using hi-tech means such as phishing websites or e-mails, which tricked people into sharing their personal information, computer viruses, and setting up free Wifi sites and mobile apps to get access to personal information.