In an ongoing digital fraud scheme, Chinese scammers have racked up over 950 million yuan ($138 million USD) from more than 93,000 victims by preying on victims’ sense of national pride and desire for easy returns. Police in Tianjin, Beijing and Guangxi arrested 44 more suspects on Thursday (May 25).
Scammers promised victims a large payout for their small deposit, which was touted to help “unfreeze” assets belonging to former dynastic rulers and the Kuomintang government that had been smuggled overseas after the Nationalist government was overthrown in 1949.
To guarantee their 50,000 yuan ($7,252 USD) payout, victims had only to pay a small fee of 10 yuan, or $1.46 USD – such a small amount that most victims didn’t even report it. The criminals used the WeChat platform to sell the scheme far and wide.
Cishan Fumin Zongbu, the so-called “Making People Rich through Charity Institute,” sent around official-looking documents that explained the government’s policy and showed the venture had been authorized. The “Institute” even provided forged certificates verifying the authenticity of the assets, which were actually fake antiques.
One of those arrested was the individual responsible for spreading the scam on social media, Chen Yuying, who had been introduced to the gang less than a year earlier. After the person who introduced him got arrested for fraud, Chen came up with the scheme to extract membership fees from participants under the guise of “unfreezing national assets.”
The owner of the bank account where the funds were being sent was arrested April 26 and confessed to the police, giving up the names of three accomplices. One of these was captured in the Guangdong Province on May 12. The others gave themselves up two days later.
China’s Ministry of Public Security has broken up 15 gangs involved in the scam since October. But what really caught authorities’ attention was a launch ceremony at the end of April that promised 50,000 yuan to everyone who showed up. Hundreds of middle-aged and elderly people flocked to the National Stadium in Beijing to collect their money.
Last year, the ministry uncovered 83,000 cases of online and telecom fraud in 32 provincial and 206 city centers dedicated to cracking down on these forms of fraud. That’s nearly 50 percent more than the previous year, before the ministry set up the dedicated centers.