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20 farmers in 5.4m yuan bank scam
By Zhu Zhe (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-12-09 06:05

It is a scam that sounds like a movie plot a group of almost illiterate farmers living the high life after producing magnetic strips on bankbooks to steal 5.4 million yuan (US$666,000) from hundreds of accounts across China.

But police in Central China's Hunan Province, say they have recently cracked a group of up to 20 swindlers, making eight arrests, Chutian Metropolis Daily reported.

The group, with its head named as Zhang Shuihan, are believed to have targeted more than 60 cities nationwide in the past five years.

It is claimed they lived a luxurious lifestyle with their profits, buying cars, houses and shares in companies.

They were aided by fake identity cards and a magnetic strip maker.

Zhang confessed that he paid 100,000 yuan (US$12,300) two years ago to a doctor in Shenzhen, South China's Guangdong Province, who helped him with software needed for the scam, along with a notebook computer and magnetic strip devices.

The latest case in Erdos, North China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region last month, saw him steal 2.18 million yuan (US$270,000) from a branch of the Agriculture Bank of China, it was alleged.

Zhang is said to have told police that he followed a company cashier to the bank and peeped at the account name and code, and then opened an account in a similar name.

He then phoned the telephone bank to gain details of the cashier's actual account's information.

He fabricated a bankbook with the same account name, code and number to the cashier's one with the help of his magnetic strip devices and used it to obtain cash.

Police had been probing similar cases in Hunan over the past few years. After investigations by officers and public reports, Zhang was captured in the provincial capital of Changsha earlier this month.

Reports said his group used the stolen money for resplendent residences in several cities with concubines in. One accomplice, Qian Chunfu, bought at least three luxurious cars and held one-fifth of shares of a real estate company, it was reported.

Police are now advising the "1-metre line" regulation be strictly enforced in banks to prevent the account names and codes being copied by people standing too close to customers at counters.

(China Daily 12/09/2005 page3)

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