Telemarketing scams targeting rich and famous on the increase

Updated: 2014-01-13 00:39

By GAO CHANGXIN in Shanghai (China Daily)

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Tang Wei, the Chinese movie star who rose to fame after her role in 2007's Lust, Caution, warned her fans to beware of telemarketing scams on Saturday after she was reportedly conned out of 210,000 yuan ($34,700) while working in Shanghai's Songjiang district.

The Songjiang district police department confirmed on Sunday that the actress had reported being the victim of a scam but said, "We have nothing more to share with the media right now."

An assistant to Tang spoke about the incident to Sina's news website, saying the star is now "calm" and urged fans to guard against such scams.

Tang, 34, began her career as a model before rising to fame in Oscar-winning director Ang Lee's espionage thriller Lust, Caution.

The movie, which also starred Hong Kong actor Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, was a huge success in China, grossing $17 million.

Tang received Best New Actress at the Venice Film Festival for her performance, and she has since gone on to star in various Chinese movies and TV shows.

Telemarketing scams have become a growing problem in China, often targeting the rich and famous.

The Shanghai Public Security Bureau said last week that telemarketing complaints were up 40 percent in 2013 compared to the previous year, with expatriates making up 1 percent of the victims.

Fraudsters often impersonate law enforcement officers and attempt to scare people into transferring money to "safety accounts".

Victims were often retirees and elderly people, unfamiliar with new technology, but more young and educated people are falling victim to the scams, police said.

Many telemarketing operators are based outside China, authorities say, making it hard for police to take action.

In December, Shanghai police and their counterparts in Cambodia busted 21 people from the mainland and Taiwan accused of swindling a mainland citizen of more than 20 million yuan.

Wang Jun, a saleswoman in Shanghai, said she received several messages in which a fraudster pretended to be her landlord and asked her to deposit her rent into a bank account.

"I'm smart enough to tell it's a scam, but I can't say that for everyone," she said.