Telephone and internet scams now targeting expats in China

Published:  9 Sep at 6 PM
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China is the latest expat destination in a long line of countries being seen as magnets for low-life scammers, fraudsters and internet villains.

Chinese lawyers are now warning expats of an explosion in fraud via telephone, text and email scams and other rip-offs. Telecom fraud cases have increased by an average of 70 per cent annually since 2011, with expat targets now easier prey than Chinese nationals.

A Beijing lawyer specialising in expat telecom and internet fraud described one case involving an English teacher who’d lost the sum of 100,000 yuan simply be clicking on an email link. The fraudulent email said he’d won online shopping coupons which could be claimed by clicking the link. Unsuspecting at first, he clicked but. as soon as he saw an irrelevant web page appear, he exited the page. As a result of those few seconds, his entire savings of 100,000 yen were stolen from his Industrial and Commercial Bank of China account, and his access to his online debit card also disappeared.

Computer crime specialists with the Beijing police said a virus in the link enabled the fraudsters to gain access to his bank account number and password. Another example involved a phone fraud by scammers pretending to have a package for delivery to the owner of the phone and asking for personal information as confirmation of his identity. The US expat English teacher told police his full name, address and ID number were requested, adding that he’d suddenly remembered he hadn’t ordered anything recently and ended the call.

Over the five years he’s been teaching in China, the lucky expat has been the recipient of endless fraudulent texts and phone calls, but has always been aware of the risks. Many, especially those new to the Beijing expat scene, haven’t been as informed and careful and have lost money as a result. A Beijing police spokesperson said it’s very difficult to trace and stop the fraudsters, as they register fake addresses using fake names and change their company details and location regularly to avoid detection and arrest.

Language barriers, he added, are one reason why lost money isn’t traced and returned to victims of such frauds. He advises expats not to answer calls with 170 or 171 prefixes and to avoid clicking on email links at all times.
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