By Lucy Hornby
Criminal gangs tricking unwitting Chinese into releasing bank account information and other personal details are having the greatest success among older people and women, police said on Monday.
A crackdown on "e-crime" has revealed gangs operating out of six counties in mainland China, who route money and Internet communications through Taiwan and Southeast Asian countries to avoid detection.
Most hook their victims through text messages that claim to be from banks or the police, tricking victims into calling fake numbers and giving their account details.
In the West, such practices are calling "phishing" and usually take place through spam emails.
"The biggest characteristic is that these people are very slick talkers, also they use very sophisticated technology," said Huang Zuyue, vice director of the crimes investigation unit of the Ministry of Public Security.
Other favorite tricks are to send "sweet words" to lure the victim into a revealing conversation, too-good-to-be-true schemes, threats of retaliation if money is not sent, and even fake kidnapping schemes, which the victim hears what they believe to be their child struggling or screaming, Huang said.
About 70 percent of the victims are elderly, and about 70 percent are women.
The scams, which originally targeted people on the wealthy coast, are moving to central and inland China.
Neighborhoods in Beijing are festooned with banners reminding people to beware of online financial crimes.
The gangs act like corporations, with departments in charge of technology and others in charge of transferring the money.
China's lax personal banking procedures, and large number of online services including insurance, contribute to the gangs' ease of operations, police said.
More than 1,400 people suspected of involvement in such crimes had been detained, Huang said.