Beijing police warn of hi-tech con men

By Li Fangchao (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-05-29 06:53

Beijing police yesterday released details of a number of scams that they said were being widely used to con people throughout the city.

Guo Zhenlin, an officer with the criminal investigation team of the Beijing municipal public security bureau, said: "The perpetrators are the same old faces, but now they have new tricks."

With the growth in popularity of the Internet and mobile phones, grifters have concentrated on new technologies while developing their scams, Guo said.

He said this year had seen a steep increase in fraud cases involving the Net and mobile-phone text messages, and a fall in traditional street swindles such as gambling, selling fake jewelry and "fake note" scams.

Since January, Beijing police have handled 225 cases involving online cons worth more than 2.4 million yuan ($314,000), Guo said. They have also had 439 cases of mobile-phone scams worth some 8 million yuan, he said.

The most common scams involved online shopping, lottery predictions and sending SMS messages informing people they had won a prize.

Jin Dazhi, a Beijing police officer with more than 10 years' experience dealing with such cases, said: "These crooks appeal to people's greed; they target those who think they can get something for nothing.

"By using hi-tech scams they can con more people in less time. They are constantly coming up with new ways to lure people, and that makes it hard to track them," Jin said.

Most of the con men hail from outside the capital, often from southern and eastern coastal provinces like Guangdong and Fujian, Jin said.

"Sometimes, the swindlers come from a remote village, which is hard to find and get to," he said.

Jin warned people to watch out for three cons currently doing the rounds:

People receive a message telling them they have won a lottery and are told they need send only a little money as tax to a named bank account to claim their prize.

Swindlers call people but refuse to say who they are and insist the recipient guesses. When the recipient gives a name, the con man writes it down and later uses it to con the same recipient, on the premise they need money to deal with some emergency.

Swindlers leave leaflets on doorsteps offering to repair home appliances. Once in the house they replace the broken appliance with a new but cheaper model and say they will take the broken one to be repaired. They ask for a large deposit on the replacement appliance but never return.

(China Daily 05/29/2007 page4)

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