Scams and swindles
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A man in China fell for an refund scam and lost US$210,000. Photo: SCMP composite

Man losing US$210,000 over US$110 refund shocks Chinese public, highlights online fraudsters reaping massive returns from gullible internet shoppers

  • One man had multiple bank accounts emptied of more than 1.4 million yuan (US$210,000) in a matter of hours
  • Special police task force eventually took down a fraud gang with victims nationwide

Alarm bells are ringing on Chinese social media after a man was defrauded out of 1.43 million yuan (US$210,000) after making an online purchase of just 741 yuan (US$110).

On December 31, last year, the man, surnamed Han, from Dalian in northeastern China’s Liaoning province received a phone call from someone claiming to be a customer service representative for an online shopping platform.
The person informed Han that because he bought a bottle of vitamin C pills on the platform and several customers had reported allergies after taking the pills, the company decided to recall the products and refund him 741 yuan.

“They knew my full name, what I bought on the platform, and even that I bought the pills for my children,” Han explained. “They then informed me that the products needed to be recalled due to a reported allergy issue.”

The man in China actively transferred over 1.4 million yuan to a group of fraudsters. Photo: Shutterstock

In accordance with the person’s instructions – and thinking they were genuine because of the detailed information they had in their possession – Han downloaded a video call app and started a screen share with the person in the hope of getting his money back.

Han gradually transferred all the money from his 10 bank cards, his wife’s five bank cards, and his Alipay deposit – a third-party mobile and online payment platform owned by Alibaba Group, which also owns the South China Morning Post.

In total, including online loans and credit cards, he transferred a total of 1,430,000 yuan to a bank account number provided by the fraudsters.

The process took more than half a day, then Han realised he had been duped and called the police at 7pm that evening, according to China Central Television, a Chinese state-owned broadcaster.

The local police station formed a special case task force and began an investigation: “After Han transferred the money to the fraudsters’ bank account, he lost contact with the person,” said Zhang Peng, a special task force police officer.

The investigation team finally discovered 19 separate frauds carried out by the same people, spanning six provinces across the country, including Shanxi, Sichuan and Fujian.


Police break car window to stop woman from falling for phone scam

Police break car window to stop woman from falling for phone scam

China has seen an increase in online scams in recent years, with a woman named Sun from Hangzhou nearly having her bank account emptied in a similar scam earlier this month.

The rise in internet rackets involving large sums of money has shocked people online and the subject has become a matter of much online conversation, with some wondering why people with so much money already can be so easily snared.

“If the person already had over a million yuan, why did he care about the 700 yuan?” one person wondered.

Another person, who questioned how the fraudsters obtained all of the specifics of Han’s purchase online, commented: “The problem of information leakage in China is too serious.”