Mobile Payment Scams Strike Chinese Users

September 20, 2019         By: Steven Anderson

Scott Adams’ immortal theory that money tends to draw weasels, usually in direct proportion, continues to hold water as new reports emerge from China. The current word says that mobile payments-related scams are on the rise in the country, and they’re specifically targeting the younger people who may never have actually seen such a scam in action before.

Taking advantage of both mobile payments technology and a comparative lack of malfeasance as far as mobile payments goes, the latest scam works almost in reverse of the one that took so many less-than-tech-savvy grandparents and even parents for a ride. Here, fraudsters break into accounts, and request cash transfers of the account holders’ friends for reasons that ultimately prove spurious. In one case, an 18 year old college student named Xue Youbo found a request for 5,000 yuan ($704.90 US as of this writing) addressed from said friend, who told Xue that the friend’s father was in a car accident.

Interestingly, while Xue didn’t “blame anyone” for this, he did note that the “whole process…only took me one minute.” He noted that the whole thing was “too convenient,” and didn’t leave him “…any time to think about it.”

Yet with 390 million yuan lost to internet fraud cases just last year—a five-year high at last report—it’s clear that online fraud is on the rise in China, and that’s likely to prompt some substantial crackdown. These scams are said to particularly target the young as they’re the more frequent users of online payments tools like Alipay and WeChat Pay.

Such systems are moving to help prevent fraud at the source—Alipay has a system that can detect QR codes generated by its own tools—but considering how large the fraud totals are right now, this may not be enough. The question remains, though, which will hit first: a retraction in fraud levels brought about by quick responses from mobile payments firms, or a wide-scale hyper-reactionary government crackdown?