Pervasive online frauds expose multiple loopholes

By Li Yang
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China Daily, September 9, 2016
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Police officers make a list of bank cards seized in a telecommunication fraud case in Xuchang, Henan province, in January. NIU YUAN/CHINA DAILY

Fraud, like theft, is as old as human history. But in this internet age when information, especially personal information, flows freely fraudsters have become more "skillful". The more technology advances, the easier it becomes for fraudsters to cheat people. For example, a fraudster can send a message to tens of thousands of people at the same time with a single click of the mouse.

But were it not for Xu Yuyu, a college-bound student in Linyi, Shandong province who died recently of a cardiac attack after losing her tuition fees of about $1,500 to a phone fraud, and the attention that her poor family drew, the case would have gone unnoticed like many other small cases that go unreported.

Chinese people lose hundreds of millions of yuan in telecom frauds every year. And some towns in China have become infamous for phone scam gangs.

In fact, Tsinghua University reportedly started conducting security tests on newcomers from this year to prevent potential frauds from enrolling in the institution. Students have to answer about 500 questions on telecom fraud, transportation issues and fire prevention, before they can be admitted. But ironically, while all the anti-fraud measures were being put in place, police said last week that a teacher of the university had lost millions of yuan to a phone scam.

So subjecting students to a "scam test" is not enough-we also need legal measures to tackle telecom frauds.

China has more than 700 million internet users, the largest in the world. Yet while all countries with large populations of internet users implemented a law on personal information protection in the previous decade, China still does not have such a law, let alone legislation on self-regulation of the online industry when it comes to personal information security.

Many telecom and information technology companies reap huge profits but ignore their responsibility to take measures to prevent the telecom frauds being committed on their platforms.

In many developed countries, self-regulation plays a leading role in preventing telecom agencies from leaking citizens' personal information.

Besides, the authorities focus on investigating and penalizing culprits in some major cases while ignoring the small ones, which presumably constitute the majority of the telecom frauds across the world.

China's Criminal Law says those responsible for big frauds involving "extremely large amounts of money" or cases of gross violation can be sentenced for life. But the focus on big cases has not helped solve the problem; on the contrary telecom frauds have become rampant, penetrating into almost every field, including both online and offline activities of users.

In China, commercial and public sector agencies both require citizens to provide accurate personal information but fail to protect them.

The Xu Yuyu case shows how important it is for China to enact a personal information protection law, and begin the process of better safeguarding personal information.

And since we don't have a specific law, every person has to learn a whole set of skills to fight or avoid telecom frauds, and many poor college-bound students must prepare for a life-or-death telecom scam test that fraudsters could subject them to after passing the national college entrance exam.

The author is writer with China Daily.


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