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Spike in fraud cases as criminals adopt illegal software

By CAO YIN | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2018-09-03 19:40
A woman in Beijing shows spam messages on her mobile phone. Wang Jing / China Daily

China has seen a sharp rise in internet and telecom fraud over the past two years, with crooks increasingly using instant-messaging apps and illegal technology to swindle citizens, according to data from the Supreme People's Court.

A report released Monday by the SPC's China Justice Big Data Service Platform said the number of online and telecom fraud cases concluded by Chinese courts rose more than 70 percent year-on-year in 2017.

The report did not include exact figures on how many cases were heard in 2016 and 2017.

"Not content with cheating people out of money with spam calls or texts, fraudsters have started using WeChat and illegal number-disguising software to deceive victims," it said.

The downloadable software allow criminals to change the number that appears on the recipient's mobile phone display to that of an authority, such as a police station, in order to convince the scam call is genuine.

Frauds involving such software or WeChat more than doubled in 2017 compared with the previous year, the report said, without mentioning exact figures. "It's also frequent to see defendants use phishing websites and Trojan viruses," it added.

Judge Qin Bo, deputy head of the No 2 criminal division at Beijing Haidian District People's Court who specializes in hearing fraud cases, confirmed that the number of online and telecom fraud cases has risen "very fast". He said he has also noticed an increase in reoffending.

In August, Qin heard a case in which 40 Chinese — including five from Taiwan — repatriated from Kenya in 2016 were convicted of online fraud. He said four of them had committed similar crimes before.

"They were undereducated and jobless before they went abroad," he said. "Although facing the prospect of prison, they returned to crime after encountering difficulties finding jobs to improve their lives."

The report echoed Qin's observation. It said 7.19 percent of fraudsters convicted in 2017 were reoffenders, compared with 6.38 percent the previous year.

Most fraud cases were heard in Fujian, Guangdong and Zhejiang provinces, with an uptick seen in Henan province last year, the report added.

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