Looking for a job that doesn't require any qualifications and can make you a millionaire in no time? Try blackmailing government officials with fake sex photos!
Ten people have netted 255,000 yuan ($41,406) of a demanded 45 million yuan by plying this trade since 2011 in a single Hunan county alone. Their modus operandi is simple: download officials' photos, use some Photoshop magic to plant them in a romp with naked women, and then send the photos to officials to extort money.
This is hardly a one-off scam. The government's crackdown on fake sex photos has involved pasting slogans in public that warn of the harsh penalties awaiting cyber blackmailers.
"Let's work together to launch a 'people's war' against blackmailers using Photoshop on sex photos!" is a slogan that can be seen every 50 meters in Shuangfeng, a small county in Hunan Province where police this month arrested 10 people in a ring using fake sex photos to blackmail officials.
The billboards have replaced the "long live Chairman Mao" slogans that plastered cities across China back in the 1950s.
But I'm willing to bet the slogans have given more people clues about the country's latest get-rich-quick scheme. On one hand, a burgeoning fake sex photo industry could lower unemployment and boost local economies. Computer training schools would also boom as budding extortionists flock to enroll to master Photoshop.
On the other hand, blackmailers might be hailed as "Chinese Robin Hoods," robbing from the rich to share their hush money with the poor.
Obviously, I'm kidding. Blackmailers deserve to be locked up for picturing our officials with such ugly "mistresses," despite the fact they could make millions more in yuan if they leaked even more stomach-churning fake sex photos.
Ten of Shuangfeng's Photoshop fraudsters were detained on March 16, but another 23 remain at large. Local police say they tackled 127 such cases last year.
Unfortunately, not all governments are as determined as Shuangfeng in the "people's war" on fake sex photos, which is why blackmailers have become more brazen in recent years.
Targets range from county-level officials to central government heavyweights. Hong Kong's media reported a top official from the Ministry of Public Security was even blackmailed with fake sex photos.
In the wake of last year's sex tape scandal involving a former Chongqing district Party chief, Chinese people are less likely to treat sex photos, fake or not, with a grain of salt.
If officials across China are serious about nipping the problem of fake sex photos in the bud, they should follow Shuangfeng's lead and launch similar campaigns to crackdown on cyber blackmailers.