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Ticket scam targets spring break uni students
By Cao Desheng (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-01-14 05:28

Hundreds of college students in Beijing have been left out of pocket after being targeted by a Spring Festival train ticket scam.

Scores of youngsters booked tickets from Botong Business Co, whose office is near China University of Politics and Law.

But when they arrived to pick them up earlier this week, having already paid for them, they discovered the company boss had fled with their money.

According to the office clerk, more than 1,000 college students booked tickets. But she said she did not know how much money her boss had pocketed from the scam.

Police are investigating the case.

Huang Wenxi, a senior student at the university, told the Beijing News daily: "I paid the clerk 1,000 yuan (US$122) for three air tickets from Beijing to my hometown in Sichuan Province in Southwest China, which included an 'earnest money' and a service charge.

"But when I went to the booking office to get the tickets on Thursday, I was told the company boss had fled with all the cash from customers."

Due to large population flows in Spring Festival, or Lunar New Year, getting a rail ticket becomes a difficult task for many people. The traditional Chinese festival falls on January 29 this year.

The huge numbers of people travelling exert strong pressure on China's transportation system, particularly the 72,000 kilometres of country's rail lines.

Although the number of travellers taking flights is increasing, trains still remain the first choice of transport for most passengers, because of safety and low cost. It means illegal dealers see it as a chance to cash in by trading tickets at higher prices, or even selling fake tickets, despite a crackdown by rail police upon the illegal business.

According to official statistics, China's passenger flow during the 2006 Spring Festival travel season is expected to hit 2.042 billion individual trips, an increase of 3.1 per cent with the previous year.
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