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Economic crimes on increase
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Incidences of violent crime are down, but economic crimes involving fake products and credit card fraud are up, the Ministry of Public Security announced yesterday.

In the first nine months of this year, the country reported 3.38 million criminal cases, of which 1.61 million have been "cracked".

Crimes that "seriously threaten the public's sense of security", such as murder, arson and explosions caused by criminal negligence, dropped by 10 percent, 9.5 percent and 24.9 percent respectively, year on year.

However, economic crimes increased 7.2 percent during the same period to 59,000 reported cases, ministry spokesman Wu Heping said at a press conference.

Among them, there were 2,036 cases of fraudulent and shoddy products, up 25.7 percent; 6,187 cases of financial fraud and 744 smuggling cases, up 15.9 percent and 13.8 percent respectively, according to the ministry.

Wu said the booming economy, rising incomes and deepening ties with the outside world all contributed to the growth of economic crime in the country.

"Criminological research shows that generally, economic crimes will increase when a country's GDP per capita is between US$1,000 and US$4,000," he said. "That's China right now."

Wu reminded the public to be particularly cautious when using automated teller machines (ATMs), online banking and giving out personal information.

"Special attention should be paid to the sharp rise in credit card fraud," he said, adding that credit card fraud cases alone jumped almost one-third in the first half of the year, with criminals netting 44.6 million yuan (US$5.98 million).

He said criminals were often found installing monitoring equipment at ATMs to steal account numbers and passwords and then made fake cards to withdraw money.

They were also found to use spy software or in set up fake websites of financial institutions or banks to "phish" for credit card account numbers and passwords.

The problem was particularly serious in Shanghai, Fujian Province and the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, according to the ministry.

Just two weeks ago, 29-year-old software programmer Xiao Feng stood trial in Urumqi, capital of Xinjiang, for stealing 120,000 yuan (US$16,000) from 46 accounts by making fake credit cards. No ruling or sentence has yet been given.

To prevent unnecessary loses, Wu advised the public to check their credit card accounts regularly and to use cards carefully, especially when making purchases or doing bank transfers online.

"People using bank cards abroad must pay special attention, only use them in proper shops, and never let the card leave their sight," he said.

(China Daily November 2, 2007)

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