Public security ministry foils criminal phone gangs in China

Gang members used 3,100 encrypted phones to harass victims

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 June, 2018, 5:55pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 June, 2018, 6:39pm

China’s Ministry of Public Security has smashed two criminal phone gangs a joint operation with security departments from 15 cities, Guangzhou Daily has reported.

The authorities arrested 200 suspects who allegedly made more than 1.2 billion harassment calls to people.

The gangs, known online as “Maniac Cloud Calling” and “Beating him to death”, were run by two criminal kingpins. They are accused of blackmail, illegal debt-collection and adopting unlawful, high-pressure sales tactics, the report said.

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Gang members had 3,100 encrypted phones and operated online and offline. Using smartphones and laptop software they harassed their victims with multiple repetitive calls. They persisted until people obeyed text messages telling them to pay so the calls would stop, according to the report.

As part of the operation against the gangs the security authorities blocked more than 830,000 related illegal accounts on WeChat that the criminals had used and confiscated servers, laptops and ATM cards.

This criminal tactic involving the use of a cheap phone network to bombard unwitting phone users with preset repetitive calls from random unknown numbers, is known in China as “calling you to death”. When someone answers, the caller hangs up and you are not able to call back. The calls continue until you pay the gang.

In March, a man in Guangzhou was bombarded with such calls, because he had refused to pay the US$80 demanded by the criminals, Guangzhou Daily reported on Tuesday. He said that after he agreed to pay it took four days before the disruptive calls stopped and normal phone functions were restored.

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The Ministry of Public Security began its operation in April, initially targeting the “Beating him to death” gang and the malicious messages it was sending in Shenzhen.

Guangdong public security authorities said citizens who were victims of these illegal gangs should always call police. They should also contact their phone service companies and get them to activate an “emergency communication protection” system. In addition they could download secure mobile applications that can block harassment calls and text messages that seek to harass them.