Monday, May 17, 2021

Why more of China’s Gen Z are falling victim to online fraud

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The young are being duped at a much faster pace than other age groups because of their more frequent use of online payment platforms like WeChat Pay and Alipay, which have increasingly been targeted by fraudsters. Alibaba’s Alipay and Tencent’s QQ and WeChat, China’s largest social media platforms, did not immediately reply to a request for comment. Alibaba Group is the parent company of the South China Morning Post.

WeChat Pay and Alipay, which together accounted for more than 90% of China’s mobile payments last year, have been fighting fraud.

Alipay offers a technology to determine whether a QR code is generated by its own system or if the embedded code being scanned is a malicious link. WeChat, which asks users to report illegal accounts, said it closed dozens of accounts for credit card fraud last year.

“It’s too convenient. [The transfer process] does not require a check of the borrower’s personal information,” said Xue. “I felt it might have been a scam but by the time I looked at my phone, the money was transferred.”

QR codes have found widespread popularity in China (thanks to mobile payments) but scanning them has even become a chore for the tech-savvy Chinese who are moving away from app-based payment methods to something even more portable and convenient: their face.

Alipay rolled out its Dragonfly facial recognition system – an upgrade of its Smile-to-Pay system – in December last year, and has since expanded it to over 300 cities in China. WeChat declined to provide statistics on its facial recognition payments coverage.

While instant messaging tools, ecommerce shopping, and food delivery services have made people’s lives more convenient, the nature of online services puts them at a higher risk of fraud, legal expert Cui Xiaojun was quoted saying by Guangzhou state-media People.cn.

He warned that users should call friends to confirm the authenticity of any request for money made via social media platforms like WeChat and QQ or by email.

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Although Gen Z are the fastest-growing target for online fraudsters, their average losses of 2,000 yuan (US$283) per scam are still the lowest of any age group, the report said.

Digital-savvy youth may be the most competent users of technology but they are prone to scammers playing on their emotions, whether that be sympathy or greed.

Xue said the trusting nature of young people is what causes teenagers like him to fall victim to the “friend in need” scam, but admitted that his age group is also taken in by greed. For example, fraudsters entice young people to click on malicious links by offering cash rewards or discounts.

“These young people become the target of scams because they have weak internet safety awareness and low vigilance,” said the Liewang Platform report. The use of malicious links accounted for half of all scams involving post-2000 victims.

Some scams have become so well-known that the perpetrators have had to make them more sophisticated, such as creating fake jobs with attractive salaries or impersonating investment advisers to persuade “investors” to buy high-return stocks, according to two examples cited in the report. In another ploy, fraudsters disguise themselves as potential partners on dating sites, then ask for money.

“I’ve always heard about people losing money to online fraud but never expected it happened to me,” Xue said. “I learned that lesson at the very beginning of my college life.”

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