China is in the midst of a massive menace of online scammers who lure people into investing in seemingly legitimate products which apparently results in victims losing their identity and life savings, media reports said.
In just 15 months through July 2022, China tackled 594,000 cases of telecom and internet fraud, reported Nikkei Asia citing the Ministry of Public Security.
Moreover, the report said that in 2021, authorities stopped 1.5 million people from transferring 329.1 million yuan (USD 47.5 billion) to scammers.
Basically, scammers develop a rapport with targets through various means of communication such as online chats.
The victim of the fraud starts to trust these complete strangers, transfers life savings only to find out later that it is a cellphone or computer scammer.
The scammers usually work in groups and follow carefully designed scripts and lure people into investing in seemingly legitimate products, often crypto currencies.
The crimes have caused hundreds of billions of dollars in losses and led to some suicides as well.
It is worth noting that the lack of laws to prevent private information leaks and an earlier loophole that allowed telecom operators to sell subscriptions without checking any identification documents created a safe haven for scammers, reported Nikkei Asia.
Earlier this month, Chinese lawmakers passed a law to combat rampant telecom and online fraud in an urgent response to the problem.
The new law taking effect December 1 gives enforcement agencies the power to pursue suspects abroad and orders telecom companies and banks to help hunt down scammers.
The scams involve not only fooling gullible people into transferring money but also include the reselling of personal information, human smuggling, forging of official documents and other criminal behaviors.
A thriving underground information market collects all sorts of personal data such as ID numbers and addresses from businesses and even government agencies, and then sells the information to advertisers and even scammers.
Scammers use equipment that can interrupt and tamper with telecom signals, enabling them to alter their caller IDs so that victims believe they are receiving calls from official numbers.
They also use bulk messaging software to send text messages masked as notices from telecom operators, banks and other institutions to thousands of users.
These technologies and equipment make it much harder to track scammers, said Fu Liang, an independent telecom industry analyst. In recent years, scam groups also used custom-made fraudulent apps to make people believe they are logging on to legitimate investment platforms.
The introduction of the law provides legal support for the fight against telecom and internet fraud but the activities will not die out immediately, anti-fraud experts said.
As with any other crime, they will continue to evolve with the environment and technology, the experts said.