Shanghai police crack cross-border telecom fraud case within 5 hours
Published: Sep 07, 2023 11:09 PM
File photo shows the police escort a telecom fraud suspect to the Capital International Airport in Beijing, capital of China, June 7, 2019. (Xinhua/Yin Gang)

File photo shows the police escort a telecom fraud suspect to the Capital International Airport in Beijing, capital of China, June 7, 2019. (Xinhua/Yin Gang)

Shanghai resident Jia Xiaojun (pseudonym) panicked when he received an overseas call claiming his daughter was kidnapped. The "kidnapper" asked Jia for 5 million yuan ($682,875) and sent him a video clip of his daughter calling for help in front of a camera. Jia’s 19-year-old daughter, Jia Yu (pseudonym), is studying in a South Asian country. After some hesitation, Jia and his wife went to Shanghai police for help. 

After an investigation, Shanghai police quickly found that it was not a kidnapping but a cross-border telecom fraud targeting Chinese students studying abroad. Within five hours, the police solved the case with the help of the international police cooperation mechanism, as reported by the Global Times, which learned this from the police Jing’an Branch of Shanghai Municipal Public Security Bureau on Thursday. 

Jing’an police have arrested some of the suspects involved in the case, they told the Global Times.Jing’an police has arrested some of the suspects involved in the case, they told the Global Time.

‘Pay a 5 million-yuan ransom’

On the afternoon of April 17, the Jia couple received a WeChat video call from Jia Yu. However, the voice was not that of their daughter, but a stranger's: “Your daughter’s been kidnapped. If you want her safe, pay a 5 million-yuan ransom.” An eight-second video clip was then sent to the couple’s WeChat account, in which disheveled Jia Yu cried to the camera, “Dad and mom, I’m a bit scared now; I was taken away…”

The anxious parents made phone calls to Jia Yu, but no one answered. They soon entrusted Jia Yu’s school in the South Asian country to local police for help. Later, the country’s government department confirmed that Jia Yu left the country around 2 pm that day. Jia Yu’s mother was so scared at that time that she started to transfer the first batch of 100,000 yuan to a designated account as requested by the man over the phone. But she was stopped by the man when entering the password, who asked her to “wait for further notice.”

Things seemingly came to a deadlock. After hesitation, Jia Xiaojun finally called the police around 6 pm.

A kidnapping, or a fraud?

Jing’an police soon visited the Jia couple after receiving Jia Xiaojun’s call, asking the couple about details of Jia Yu’s social and financial situation. Meanwhile, the case was reported to the national cooperation office of Shanghai Municipal Public Security Bureau for possible cross-border collaboration under the international police cooperation mechanism. The case is likely to be a telecom fraud instead of a kidnapping, said Liu Yuanyuan, deputy director of Jing’an police’s criminal investigation department.

Liu explained that similar fraud cases had happened recently, and Jia Yu’s WeChat account was logged into in various countries that day – showing that the fraudster probably obtained the password of her account. Moreover, the Chinese domestic bank account the “kidnapper” gave the Jia couple had been frozen and flagged as fraudulent on the same day.

The next step was to find Jia Yu and ensure her safety. Police analyzed that Jia Yu was highly likely not kidnapped, but duped to leave the country where she studies alone. However, information showed Jia Yu left for a neighboring country that afternoon, but the neighboring country didn’t have a record of her entering. One possibility the police considered was that Jia Yu stayed at the port areas between the two countries. The speculation was later confirmed, as police in the neighboring country reported around 10:41 pm that they had found Jia Yu at a port of entry. It had been less than five hours since Jia Xiaoyun called the police.

Similar cases frequently occur

How was Jia Yu cheated? Jia Yu recalled that on April 9, she received a call from a man who claimed to be an immigration officer. The man told Jia Yu that she was suspected of a crime and needed to cooperate with the investigation. Jia Yu trusted him. 

During the following days between April 9 and 16, the man made frequent video calls with Jia Yu to “monitor” her. On April 16, one day before the fraud, the man said to Jia Yu that she was also involved in a kidnapping case and asked her to record a video saying she was really kidnapped. Without much hesitation, Jia Yu recorded the video and sent it to the man. She also offered him her WeChat account and password.

The next day, the man told Jia Yu to leave for the neighboring country for “further investigations.” He then logged into Jia Yu’s WeChat, contacted her parents, sent them a video clip, and began his telecom fraud.

Recently, telecom fraud cases that specifically target Chinese overseas students and their parents have frequently occurred, Liu said. “We hope that the youngsters studying abroad won’t trust the swindlers and will call the police as early as possible when they encounter similar situations,” he told the Global Times.