Xuhui district police in Shanghai have arrested seven people suspected of hacking into a digital payment company and making off with at least 800,000 yuan ($128,560) in funds, a police official announced at a press conference Monday.
The company, which was not named at the press conference, reported to police in November that hackers had stolen 1.2 million yuan from 500 accounts in its payment system, each of which was linked to its own payment card, said Zhou Jun, a senior officer with the Xuhui District Public Security Bureau's criminal division.
The cards could be used to pay for utility and telecommunication bills in Shanghai. They could also be used at certain bookstores and online shopping websites.
Police suspect that the two members of the group responsible for the actual hacking sold access to the accounts at a discount to the other five members, who then sold them on to scalpers in Shanghai.
Police were able to track down the suspects by tracing back the funds through local scalpers.
Police froze the accounts of about 20 scalpers who were selling the company's cards in Xujiahui, Xuhui district, Zhou said. The scalpers had to go to the company's office to unfreeze their accounts, where they were required to provide their personal information.
By looking into the scalpers' bank accounts, police found one scalper who had done business with a suspect surnamed Li from Liaoning Province. From there, police were able to identify the other group members who masterminded the theft.
"It was suspicious that a local scalper had received funds in his account from someone in Liaoning Province because this payment system can only be used in Shanghai," Zhou told the Global Times.
Zhou said that most of the suspects lived outside of Shanghai, including a hacker surnamed Wu from Jiangxi Province and a hacker surnamed Wang from Wuhan, Hubei Province. Police said Wang has made a name for himself in hacking circles.
The group ended up stealing funds from 322 accounts and were responsible for an 800,000-yuan loss to the company, Zhou said.
So far, police have recovered 300,000 yuan of the stolen funds, including 200,000 yuan that one suspect spent on a car.
Police did not disclose what happened to the remaining funds that were reported stolen.