Per­va­sive on­line frauds ex­pose multiple loop­holes

China Daily (USA) - - VIEWS - The au­thor is writer with China Daily. liyang@chi­nadaily.com.cn

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 an­tifraud 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 Lawsays 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.

SHEN TIANCHENG / FOR CHINA DAILY

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