Business is booming.

How China is fighting a financial fraud explosion


When Jenny Fan got a phone call in early February she thought she had won a lucky draw. The caller, who said he represented a skincare company, told Jenny — a college sophomore in the northern Chinese province of Hebei — that she was eligible for Rmb1,000 (£117) in compensation. The reason? Three months previously she had bought a Rmb200 facial cream that didn’t work on her skin.

The man “claimed to be a customer service representative for the cream maker”, said Jenny. “He provided all the purchase details, including even a snapshot of the transaction record, so I found it difficult not to trust him.”

To claim the money, he told Jenny that she must set up a “special payment channel” by making multiple “test” fund transfers to a custodial account. Once the system was in place, Jenny would receive a refund plus the compensation.

FT Flic

This article is part of a series of pieces written for the new FT Flic charity which will develop educational programmes to boost the financial literacy of those most in need.

Financial literacy education gives young people the foundations for future prosperity — and can help economically disadvantaged people out of deprivation. Join the FT Flic campaign to promote financial literacy in the UK and around the world

Donate to the Financial Literacy & Inclusion Campaign here

The 19-year-old student made three payments worth a combined Rmb20,000 (£2,332). Shortly afterwards, the man blocked her on social media and stopped taking her calls. Jenny went to the police, only to be told she was “too silly” for buying the scam. “They told me the money was gone for good, as online fraudsters were difficult to track down,” she said. “What I should do is only pick up phone calls from people I know.”

Jenny is among tens of thousands of Chinese citizens to fall victim to financial fraud. The crime has become a fact of life in the world’s second-largest economy, which boasts a fast-growing middle-to-high income population. “We are seeing a surge in scammers as household wealth takes off,” said Nie Chengtao, a Beijing-based lawyer who specialises in financial fraud.

Financial schemes have a long history of thriving in China, where decades of runaway economic growth have created not only enormous personal wealth but also a get-rich-quick mindset among the public. Fraudsters have also profited from a lack of regulation and a state-imposed ceiling on deposit rates, which have made it easier for them to convince clients who are keen to get a higher return on their hard-earned savings.

Column chart of 1995-2019 showing Fraud cases investigated by Chinese police

The rise of the internet, especially online payments, has exacerbated the problem by making financial scams easier to execute and harder to trace. China’s tech firms are deeply embedded in the development of financial services. Last year, for example, Fidelity launched a retirement saving guideline tool using Ant, one of the major financial platforms.

Scammers have targeted clients of the platforms, as they are able to access a lot more potential victims than they could reach through in-person meetings.

All this has combined to make financial fraud — ranging from selling “click farm” membership (where fraudsters hire people to purchase goods from online stores in exchange for a full refund plus a fee) to investment products with no underlying assets — a national problem affecting the whole of Chinese society. David Zhang, a Hangzhou-based anti-fraud lawyer, said he has dealt with scam victims from college professors to factory workers to high school students. “No one is immune from fraudsters. We all have weak spots they can take advantage of.”

The problem has no easy fix. While Beijing has made a big push to put scammers behind bars, and the number of annual arrests has surged fivefold over the past three years, a significant number of fraudsters have emerged unscathed through operating abroad or hiding their identity with better technology.

“We are running out of resources to locate the fraudsters,” a Shandong-based police officer specialising in financial scams told the FT.

A police officer talks to travellers at Dezhou East Station, on the Shanghai-Beijing high-speed railway, as part of a campaign alerting Chinese consumers to financial fraud earlier this year
A police officer talks to travellers at Dezhou East Station, on the Shanghai-Beijing high-speed railway, as part of a campaign alerting Chinese consumers to financial fraud earlier this year © Costfoto/Barcroft Media/Getty

A nationwide anti-fraud education campaign was launched by the Chinese authorities in 2019, after president Xi Jinping announced in a conference that fighting fraud was a “top priority” when it came to making people feel secure. The campaign culminated early this year with the launch of National Anti-Fraud Center, a mobile app that has been downloaded more than 500m times, making it one of the most popular in the world. The government uses a variety of channels, from street posters to TV commercials, to inform the public about what scams look like and how to avoid them. But the app has also caused controversy for tracking mobile phone usage, censoring overseas phone calls and labelling business apps such as Bloomberg News as “malicious”.

Few Chinese adults can spend a day without being bombarded by state-sponsored anti-fraud propaganda. Most apartment buildings have posters in the lobby telling residents not to wire funds to strangers. Buses carry advertisements on how to identify scams, while LED screens feature celebrities proposing a “people’s war” against fraudsters.

Some places have gone further. Last month, Dongjing, a township in Shanghai, began requiring hotel guests to read and sign anti-fraud tip sheets before checking in. Meanwhile, local restaurant waiters were instructed to inform customers about scam prevention before serving their food.

“We want anti-fraud education to reach every aspect of people’s lives,” said a Dongjing official.

One of the main intended beneficiaries of the policy initiative is college students who have suffered heavily from financial scams. A survey last year of 2,746 university students nationwide by the official China Youth Daily showed more than a tenth of respondents had lost money to scammers. That prompted a new wave of education campaigns aimed at making young adults more wary. Last year, Shanghai started requiring 140,000 college freshmen to take an online anti-fraud course, highlighting five popular scams, from blackmail and impersonation of government officials to online dating with the purpose of selling fake investment products.

So keen are some cities to fight scams that Jinan, an eastern city, last year asked university students to allow anti-fraud police to join their social media groups. The idea was that the officers would post scam prevention tips and watch for suspicious messages. “We want to make sure students are constantly protected from scammers,” said a Jinan official.

A billboard in Sanlitun, Beijing, warns shoppers about the dangers of financial scams © Fran Lu/FT

Retail investors are another major target for the education drive, as their financial literacy fails to keep pace with booming household wealth. A survey of 140,000 adults by the People’s Bank of China in April found that more than half of respondents couldn’t calculate annualised returns and didn’t understand what investment diversification meant. Forty-four per cent said they would ignore or only skim-read financial contracts.

To narrow the knowledge gap, the financial regulator (comprising People’s Bank of China, the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission, and China Securities Regulatory Commission) has hosted a growing number of online and on-site training courses, aimed at helping investors make more informed decisions. (These courses have increased significantly since Xi’s speech in 2019.) The authority has also required financial advisers and asset managers to have investors complete videotaped risk assessment tests before deciding on which products to sell.

“We have done what we can to match investors’ risk preference to expected return,” said John Wang, owner of a Shanghai-based high-yield bond fund that has turned down dozens of investors for their low risk tolerance.

Many retail investors assume a guaranteed return (which is encouraged by fund sales pitches) for fixed income investment products, even though that doesn’t exist in reality. A default may prompt disgruntled investors to sue asset managers for providing misleading information.

Column chart of 2018-20 showing Number of people arrested in China for wire fraud

Yet the education campaign has not prevented scams from flourishing. Court records show that last year investor fraud cases nationwide rose by more than a third from 2019 levels.

The campaign’s failure is partly due to its limited scale. Most government-backed investor education courses reach only a small number of students, owing to a lack of publicity. While many privately run financial literacy programmes enjoy greater popularity, they suffer a conflict of interest for promoting investment products for a profit.

Worse still, most education programmes are too general to cover what’s needed to prevent frauds.

“The teacher told us high returns came with high risks,” said Daniel Wu, a Zhejiang-based software engineer who had taken several financial literacy classes before losing Rmb1m to a scheme. “But he didn’t say which part of the investment contract we should read closely to avoid being trapped.”

While Beijing has put one of the world’s strictest personal data protection laws in place, its enforcement is patchy at best. Sun Yin, a professor at Southwestern University Politics and Law, said in a paper last year that a lack of strong punishment on personal information theft has left scammers “undeterred”. 

Ji Shaofeng, a Nanjing-based financial consultant and a former banking regulator, said better education may help the public fight scams in the long term. “In the short run,” said Ji, “rule of law matters more”.

Yet as fraud cases continue to prosper, many believe that education alone isn’t enough to fight the scammers. Nie, the anti-fraud lawyer, said a lack of protection of personal information allows fraudsters to craft such tailor-made messaging that victims find it impossible to resist.

Jenny Fan, the student fraud victim, knows this from bitter experience. “It is difficult to hang up a stranger’s call when they know so much about you,” she said. “You just keep listening until you get trapped.”

Additional reporting by Wang Xueqiao in Shanghai

Source link

  1. Brosuu says

    levaquin 500mg cheap oral levaquin 500mg

  2. Jeyosd says

    order avodart generic tamsulosin 0.2mg sale generic zofran

  3. Uwbabf says

    aldactone canada buy generic valtrex 1000mg diflucan 100mg pill

  4. Bmtkrv says

    buy ampicillin 250mg online erythromycin 500mg price generic erythromycin 250mg

  5. Frdnoe says

    generic sildenafil 100mg purchase fildena online cheap buy methocarbamol generic

  6. Bwdffn says

    buy suhagra 100mg generic sildenafil overnight shipping usa estrace buy online

  7. Asnuhc says

    purchase lamotrigine pills minipress 2mg for sale order tretinoin without prescription

  8. Rozimc says

    tadalafil online order purchase tadalafil sale buy voltaren 100mg sale

  9. Qfeqot says

    order accutane 20mg azithromycin 500mg pills order generic zithromax

  10. Uexkhf says

    order indocin pill purchase indomethacin pills buy trimox 250mg online

  11. Tnsgcy says

    order generic tadalafil 20mg pills for ed viagra sildenafil 50mg

  12. Mstivr says

    buy arimidex generic Pfizer viagra order sildenafil generic

  13. Nrqmre says

    tadalafil en france viagra 25mg gГ©nГ©rique sildenafil 50mg sans ordonnance

  14. Zdekis says

    prednisone 5mg oral deltasone 10mg without prescription generic viagra 100mg

  15. Xghjka says

    cialis 5mg kaufen generika cialis 10mg generika rezeptfrei kaufen sildenafil 200mg kaufen generika

  16. Ufeeuu says

    oral accutane isotretinoin 40mg price stromectol price

  17. Pfxtqj says

    order doxycycline online order furosemide generic purchase lasix without prescription

  18. Mhutbq says

    order ramipril 10mg for sale purchase avapro for sale cost astelin

  19. Zlliwh says

    clonidine 0.1mg sale meclizine 25 mg cost tiotropium bromide online buy

  20. Hbulqy says

    buspar over the counter oral buspirone 10mg buy ditropan 5mg pill

  21. Tzffca says

    order terazosin without prescription azulfidine generic purchase sulfasalazine online cheap

  22. Aqzyli says

    order fosamax 70mg online generic panadol 500 mg order famotidine pills

  23. Oghncb says

    benicar 10mg generic buy acetazolamide pill acetazolamide over the counter

  24. Sidens says

    tacrolimus 5mg us purchase labetalol online cheap ursodiol for sale online

  25. Ripfxg says

    imdur 40mg generic order lanoxin 250 mg generic buy micardis 20mg pill

  26. Qdnggd says

    purchase bupropion pills bupropion us quetiapine 100mg sale

  27. Qctnvl says

    buy molnupiravir 200mg online cheap oral molnunat order prevacid 15mg

  28. Vhmfzh says

    buy sertraline pills buy sertraline pill order viagra for sale

  29. Rjleyf says

    salbutamol brand salbutamol for sale online order sildenafil online

  30. Vernlg says

    cialis australia fluoxetine pills buy generic sildenafil 50mg

  31. Mnudtv says

    cialis 40mg pill cialis online symmetrel over the counter

  32. Bsnbec says

    buy naltrexone 50mg pill generic revia 50mg abilify 30mg usa

  33. Nuiigf says

    buy avlosulfon 100 mg for sale nifedipine 10mg sale order generic perindopril

  34. Xzhbkg says

    order provera 5mg for sale order microzide sale order cyproheptadine 4 mg sale

  35. Fhgspt says

    provigil 100mg pill canadian drugs buy stromectol uk

  36. Lrdpdw says

    buy fluvoxamine sale fluvoxamine 100mg cost order glipizide without prescription

  37. Wjcgfl says

    cost accutane 40mg brand accutane order generic prednisone

  38. Zcpopx says

    order piracetam 800mg online cheap sildenafil 100mg usa buy viagra without prescription

  39. Ghbhcw says

    order zithromax 250mg without prescription zithromax 250mg for sale buy gabapentin online

  40. Dejdnz says

    order tadalafil 40mg tadalafil 20mg price sildenafil buy online

  41. Zrnbem says

    lasix usa plaquenil brand buy plaquenil 200mg generic

  42. Rsnglo says

    order cialis pills buy betnovate 20 gm buy anafranil 25mg sale

  43. Biiedz says

    buy chloroquine for sale order cenforce online buy olumiant 2mg online cheap

  44. Dkvpvw says

    sporanox 100mg brand buy progesterone 200mg for sale tindamax drug

  45. Azfuxc says

    buy glucophage 500mg pill glycomet 500mg sale generic tadalafil

  46. Tlfhkj says

    order zyprexa 10mg pills valsartan 80mg for sale valsartan drug

  47. Pwomam says

    norvasc 10mg price generic amlodipine 5mg cialis 10mg oral

  48. Dklfgv says

    clozaril 50mg uk cost clozapine 50mg order dexamethasone 0,0,5 mg pills

  49. Xdtehi says

    viagra for men over 50 cost lisinopril 10mg lisinopril 10mg drug

  50. Gjdjah says

    buy zyvox 600mg without prescription casino online roulette real money casino online roulette real money

  51. Cbdhxn says

    prilosec over the counter buy a research paper online jackpot party casino

  52. Oeecmc says

    metoprolol 100mg generic tenormin 50mg brand order vardenafil online

  53. Wxrscp says

    top essay writers online casino gambling poker online for fun

  54. Pztrim says

    vardenafil 10mg ca levitra 10mg generic medrol 8mg over counter

  55. Fblhji says

    academic writing article buy sildenafil 50mg generic order sildenafil without prescription

  56. Ittdlg says

    clomiphene 100mg pill roulette game online blackjack best

  57. Hzbrhe says

    order cialis 20mg generic purchase tadalafil online viagra 50mg tablet

  58. Ivuwji says

    buy triamcinolone 4mg generic aristocort tablet desloratadine order

  59. Nsokpu says

    order dapoxetine generic order dapoxetine 60mg pill synthroid 150mcg tablet

  60. Oinzox says

    oral tadalafil 20mg order cialis 10mg for sale sildenafil 25 mg

  61. Dluoyb says

    buy orlistat online cheap diltiazem generic zovirax uk

  62. Leyzgq says

    buy generic tadalafil order plavix 75mg online cheap buy generic clopidogrel 75mg

  63. Gtmbus says

    zyloprim 300mg uk zetia online buy brand zetia 10mg

  64. Puwbjh says

    methotrexate 5mg sale buy reglan 20mg online cheap purchase reglan online cheap

  65. Mvalwp says

    order motilium generic generic domperidone 10mg order flexeril generic

  66. Hxbszb says

    cozaar price order topamax sale topamax 100mg tablet

  67. Dqdkkl says

    lioresal over the counter purchase baclofen pill order toradol online

  68. Obiemb says

    buy generic sumatriptan 50mg imitrex 50mg oral order generic avodart

  69. Ufxnbo says

    colchicine 0.5mg ca online blackjack spins website casino card games

  70. Zsbucm says

    buy ranitidine 300mg for sale order zantac 150mg generic celecoxib 200mg sale

  71. Ctkuda says

    no deposit casino poker games online slot games

  72. Lfckcj says

    flomax 0.2mg uk buy tamsulosin 0.4mg for sale aldactone 25mg drug

  73. Xsriad says

    tadalafil 20mg over the counter order ampicillin 250mg generic oral ciprofloxacin

  74. Ggvcgq says

    buy zocor 10mg online proscar over the counter purchase propecia sale

  75. Aojziz says

    order metronidazole online purchase metronidazole pill bactrim 960mg canada

  76. Bgqdij says

    brand fluconazole 100mg sildenafil citrate viagra canada

  77. Qobfel says

    order cephalexin generic buy generic erythromycin buy erythromycin 500mg generic

  78. Slisit says

    buy tadalafil 40mg sale cialis 5mg oral usa viagra sales

  79. Whpcdv says

    purchase cefuroxime pill buy methocarbamol online cheap purchase methocarbamol generic

  80. Iecesn says

    casino slots gambling slot game cheap tadalafil 20mg

  81. Thowtj says

    buy desyrel 50mg generic cost suhagra buy aurogra online cheap

  82. Leyjfv says

    purchase sildalis pills order sildalis for sale purchase lamictal without prescription

  83. Pdfear says

    order generic deltasone isotretinoin 40mg over the counter amoxil 1000mg oral

  84. Nspjkv says

    order sildenafil 50mg generic buy viagra 100mg pill tadalafil 10mg for sale

  85. Nzmnph says

    order generic zithromax gabapentin tablet buy gabapentin 800mg sale

  86. Mrhgqg says

    real casino games sugarhouse casino online cialis 20mg for sale

  87. Ogvdrv says

    sugarhouse casino online roulette casino purchase provigil

  88. Kayhnr says

    generic furosemide 40mg plaquenil 200mg for sale buy hydroxychloroquine online cheap

  89. Fzzxih says

    buy deltasone 20mg for sale mebendazole 100mg for sale generic mebendazole 100mg

  90. Suqhlx says

    sildenafil 50mg cheap purchase rhinocort pill buy budesonide generic

  91. Qsibnr says

    order retin without prescription order generic retin gel buy avanafil without prescription

  92. Gvufrr says

    order tadacip 20mg online indocin 50mg over the counter indomethacin 50mg without prescription

  93. Oznxdz says

    biaxin 250mg drug catapres canada antivert order

  94. Pxmvwh says

    generic naprosyn 250mg oral cefdinir order prevacid 30mg generic

  95. Ujyeza says

    order tiotropium bromide pill minocin 100mg oral hytrin over the counter

  96. Gprsjh says

    pioglitazone for sale generic viagra 100mg viagra 50mg pills for men

  97. Aagmch says

    order montelukast 10mg for sale sildenafil pills 100mg order viagra 50mg without prescription

  98. Lbgabc says

    order cialis generic Cialis pharmacy best online poker sites for real money

  99. Osovxq says

    order cialis without prescription ed remedies order cialis 10mg online cheap

  100. Aumiij says

    chumba casino online poker cash poker online

  101. Mrtlud says

    generic ivermectin cream order generic stromectol 12mg avlosulfon medication

  102. Mbcllw says

    online casino no deposit bonus free roulette real money spins

  103. Qrhenl says

    nifedipine cost buy fexofenadine 180mg sale buy fexofenadine sale

  104. Kkqfxx says

    play blackjack online online pharmacy drugstore cheap paper writing services

  105. Klbkvx says

    ramipril online etoricoxib 60mg us buy arcoxia pill

  106. 슬롯 says

    hey wassup i made $100 in this game so easy 슬롯 here’s the tips how to win in this game!~ ,

  107. Dxlmiz says

    how to write a letter to a hiring manager pay for a research paper sulfasalazine buy online

  108. Dszjpv says

    doxycycline for sale buy doxycycline 200mg for sale cleocin 150mg usa

  109. Bysuwi says

    benicar canada verapamil 120mg oral depakote sale

  110. Wfpuwr says

    buy mesalamine 800mg without prescription buy asacol 800mg pills avapro pills

  111. Wissjn says

    buy acetazolamide azathioprine buy online order azathioprine

  112. Cjbbtj says

    digoxin 250mg uk molnunat online order molnunat 200 mg generic

  113. Ldwkyd says

    order temovate generic purchase buspar generic amiodarone 100mg usa

  114. Zdvvto says

    carvedilol 25mg price brand amitriptyline 10mg generic amitriptyline

  115. Dqdngi says

    order amoxil 1000mg for sale order amoxil without prescription ivermectin tablets for humans

  116. Plrvce says

    alendronate 35mg brand furadantin for sale order ibuprofen 600mg pills

  117. Hetrzp says

    dapoxetine 90mg tablet order motilium for sale domperidone over the counter

  118. Ggliwa says

    nortriptyline 25 mg usa paroxetine price buy paroxetine 10mg online

  119. Yljwwc says

    buy generic indomethacin 75mg buy indocin 50mg pill order cenforce generic

  120. Qnxlvi says

    famotidine 20mg without prescription mirtazapine 15mg for sale order remeron 30mg online cheap

  121. Ckgvnk says

    doxycycline 200mg us medrol pills canada medrol 8 mg over counter

  122. Xcgqjj says

    ropinirole 2mg cheap rocaltrol 0.25mg ca cheap labetalol 100 mg

  123. Khpyov says

    order fenofibrate order sildenafil viagra 50mg generic

  124. Bnjtkc says

    order tadacip tadalafil 10mg pills order amoxicillin 500mg online cheap

  125. Prevjs says

    order cialis 40mg pills Cialis delivered overnight viagra 50mg price

  126. Bhwwld says

    nexium 40mg tablet order furosemide for sale lasix 40mg over the counter

  127. Jcytpm says

    order tadalafil 40mg for sale Cialis on line buy ed pills usa

  128. Osmlfj says

    minocin 50mg tablet minocycline cost order terazosin 5mg pills

  129. Voktvm says

    modafinil cost promethazine cheap purchase phenergan without prescription

  130. Qnybwy says

    glucophage 1000mg price purchase nolvadex buy nolvadex 10mg

  131. Jxtrjb says

    order prednisone 40mg generic buy amoxil for sale amoxicillin 1000mg for sale

  132. Rwijah says

    clomiphene 100mg ca oral prednisolone 20mg prednisolone drug

  133. Stystm says

    fildena order online generic sildenafil order proscar pills

  134. Auexgv says

    oral ondansetron 4mg bactrim 960mg usa order bactrim 960mg

  135. Fqdynv says

    ivermectin 5 mg prednisone 40mg pill prednisone for sale

  136. Zcqefy says

    ventolin inhalator over the counter augmentin buy online buy amoxiclav pill

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.