Telephone Scam?

09 Mar 2006

On Tuesday I got a morning telephone call. I was still sleeping at the time, so what I was about to hear didn’t make much sense to me. I was told I was supposed to come pick up some information that I needed. “Who are you?” I asked. “This is the blah blah blah Center,” she told me. Never heard of it.

“What information is this?” I asked. “Why do I need it?”

“Have you bought stock?” she replied.

“No.”

“Do you have insurance?”

“Yes.”

“Well, then, you need this information on new financial regulations applying to your insurance. Please come to our office this afternoon at 3pm and pick it up. Don’t forget to bring your ID (身份证).”

I wrote down the address (some place in Xujiahui) and got the phone number. Then I forgot about it.

The next day the woman called back and asked why I hadn’t come and picked up the information. This time I was more awake, so I demanded more information. Who was this? Again, the blah blah blah Center. Meaningless. I decided to be a wuss and put my girlfriend on the phone to get to the bottom of it.

My girlfriend ascertained that the woman didn’t know what insurance I had or even what my name was, but still insisted that I needed the information. It didn’t matter that I wasn’t Chinese. My girlfriend asked why my insurance agent hadn’t notified me about this, and she was given some excuse. My girlfriend asked why it couldn’t be mailed or sent by courier. It just couldn’t. It all seemed veeeeerrry fishy.

I called my health insurance company (AIA), and my agent told me she didn’t know anything about this “financial information” I supposedly needed. She advised me to ignore this woman. She thought that if I went to the address they would probably try to sell me some kind of fake insurance.

Well, the conwoman called me again for the third time today, wanting to know why I still hadn’t picked up my “information.” Even though I wasn’t planning on going in, my girlfriend already told her yesterday that I’d pick it up tomorrow. Since I was now convinced that it was some kind of scam, I yelled at her and told her I knew it was a scam and to never call me again.

I’ve gotten very few telephone solicitations in China, let alone such a bold telephone scam. Does anyone have experience with this kind of thing?

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John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.

Comments

  1. once a phone call woke me up at 9 o’clock, someone was trying to offer me a kind of service that I “absolutely” needed. Woman speaking in chinese, really fast, and I was half asleep. I got it was scam, and I hanged the phone. She called me again one minute later; hanged up again, and again she called me. Eventually I had to unplug the phone to get some rest. In the last month this kind of call has increased in Shanghai, I heard also some friend of mine got the some problem.

    The funny part is that this kind of scam has got the chinese perseverance: in my country, if you hang up the first time, at least they wait few hours before call you again… here just few seconds!

  2. My experience is not so much a scam as just straightforward insurance sales using dodgy tactics. After Bettina broke her foot in a car/bike accident last year she was pestered for ages by insurance people. It got really annoying and they wouldn’t take no. In the end we came all heavy with the “where did you get this number” questions and eventually they went away. I’d guess they were from the insurance company handling the claim for the guy who was held legally responsible for the accident…

  3. Scams like this abound in Taiwan. Usually most aren’t so well thought out as this one seems to be since it’s turned into a fad of sorts and just about any scuzz balls with a cell phone will give it a try.

    Two friends of mine have been targeted, one was scammed the other wasn’t.

    One friend, who is a mother of two daughters, answered the phone to hear a child crying on the other end. The voice was then muffled, but not enough (or rather just enough) so that she could hear the kid cry out, “mommy!” but not identify who it was. Then a man came on and said very gruffly, “listen, I’ve got your kid.” Well, my friend was cool enough to ask some questions and quickly ascertain that the person was lying. It didn’t help, either, that guy guessed incorrectly when she asked what gender the kid was. For about six months this was a very popular scam and I guess quite a few people ended up wiring money to these fake kidnappers.

    My second friend recently wired 5,000NT(150$) to a guy who called her one night claiming to be a friend and saying he’d just been in a car wreck and needed to pay for the other guy to go to the hospiatl or something. He gave her his bank account number and phone number, to make her fel comfortable about it, and promised to pay her back but of course never did.

    I guess it’s no surprise that these scams are starting to show up on the Mainland.

  4. Yeah, Taiwan’s pretty bad that way. I’ve gotten hundreds of calls from telemarketers in the last couple of years. I can usually talk on the phone in Chinese without too many problems, but they’re pretty hard to understand, sometimes. Almost all are from banks, and credit card companies. They’re pretty easy to deal with, though. They give up once I say I’m foreign (since we aren’t allowed to get credit cards, anyway). Strangely, it’s the guys hawking real-estate that won’t give up!

    As for scams, I’ve only been subjected to one that I know of, and that was an investment scam. Fortunately, it sounded like it was a line-for-line translation of a US investment scan, so I just told them to go stuff themselves.

  5. It’s pretty brazen of anybody to keep calling like that. They should take the hint the first time you don’t show up. I’d be afraid of being mugged when showing up at one of the places they tell you to go to.

    Growing up the US you probably talked to your fair share of telemarketers. Well, you should speak to a Chinese telemarketer in the US sometime. They are a bit worse.

    First off they only seem to call phone numbers that are registered to a person with a Chinese name or to a Chinese restauarant. No matter how you answer the phone, “Wei” or “Hello”, they jump right into their non-stop speech. They’re quite talkative and pushy. It’s actually tough to get a word in when they’re talking. At least I can honestly say I’m not interested. I don’t have a clue what they are trying to sell.

  6. Shaun,

    Yeah, that’s the thing… it’s not that I’m shocked that telephone scams exist in China. I get SMS scams regularly. It’s that they so brazenly called me repeatedly and urged me to come in and “pick up my information.” Bastards.

  7. This brings up a question – do you feel comfortable using local insurance? What if you were to have some sort of serious accident?

  8. I regularly get SMS scams. Certain banks here will send you an SMS whenever any deposits or withdrawals are made on your account. People will copy those messages, saying things like “Your purchase totaling 2500 yuan at Wal Mart has cleared your account. If you have any questions, please contact (insert dodgy cell number here)”. If you call, they’ll ask you for your name, account number, and PIN. It just goes to hell from there.

    I walked into my office one day only to find one of my colleagues going crazy over the phone. He apparently got one of those messages and decided he’d take his bad day out on someone else.

  9. Now I don’t feel alone anymore, got a call a couple of nights ago around 4 o’clock asking me whether I had ordered plane tickets. Took four attempt to get rid of the nice lady, funny thing is I thought it was a “female service” provider (Da FeiJi maybe?) – but was not. makes you wonder who makes travel arrangement in the middle of the night (-:

  10. Here is a great way to deal with pesky telemarketers. I’m not sure how it would work with these Chinese scammers, but it might be worth a shot, just for kicks. It’s basically a counter-script that aggrieved people can use to turn all the questions back on the telemarketer, annoying him so much that he won’t want to call back. Check it out.

  11. DAMMIT!
    I got kinda those phone calls. Once I told that guy again and again i have no interest in whatever he suggested, he then shouted “死板” and hung down the telephone before i have any response to what he said. The next time, he still kept callin in and every time when I asked him for details and told them stop calling me any more he hung down without letting me know.

  12. owshawng Says: March 11, 2006 at 1:28 pm

    I have fun when I get those calls. The last one I got I told the her in mandarin
    “I’m very happy. I just farted. My pants are dirty. I want to wash my butt.”
    She never called back. I’m working on nursery rhymes in mandarin. That will probably annoy them too.

  13. Hi there
    I had few similar experience in the States,which is so-called “junk call”.Keep telling me you would like to call his/her back to find out how cool a personal finaical advisor he is. How can I do with this?I really get angry with these calls coz I have been saying “hello” for thousands time but nobody replied when I picked up the phone.
    Seems common ,huh?

  14. Never got telephone ones.. but did get a lot of text messages.. annoying. normally I don’t read it just delete it. It’s annoying to get those stuff huh ?

  15. BUYERS BEWARE!

    I think this should also be posted on Ebay, since many people purchase their stuff from China anyways to list on Ebay. And who knows if these guys list here at all.

    I thought I found a good supplier of APPLE NANO IPODS… and XBOX 360s… heck, they had many high end electronics at “wholesale prices”.

    I ordered 3 ipods nano 4gb and 1 xbox 360 premium all for $690. And yes, I got suckered in by paying their only payment method ==> Western Union…

    What did I get in the Mail? I got 3 asiean mp4 players that are worthless. I feel like an idiot, but now I don’t want anyone to be scammed like I did.

    BUYERS BEWARE OF THESE SCAMMERS!!

    The won’t reply to my emails or communicate with me in anyways. This is how they do business… The person I was talking to was Samira Yang. Most likely a fake name anyways.

    Here is their website: http://www.ExportsTrade.com

    Here is the Western Union Info:

    First name: Zhao
    Last name: Wang
    Address: 0756Room HuangShan building ,ChangJiang Road Anhui China
    Tel:86-0139-56074853
    Company name: Exports Trade International Cor.

    I’ve learned an expensive lesson. And will not let this happen to me again. But they are still operating, so those that read this and is thinking of buying anything from them, becareful!

  16. thailand Says: August 2, 2009 at 2:39 am

    International phone fraud ring busted in Chiang Mai
    By thaivisa.com

    Chiang Mai – Police in the northern provincial city of Chiang Mai have arrested 94 Chinese and Taiwanese nationals believed to have been operating an international money transfer fraud ring on Tuesday.
    Thaivisa.com reported about 100 police from the Central Investigation Bureau (CIB), along with tourist police and highway police, executed warrants at 11 houses at several well-known Chiang Mai housing estates Tuesday as part of a concerted effort to close the gang’s operation down.

    According to police, most of the suspects taken into custody were good-looking females who would use prepared scripts to trick people into making online money transfers.

    Police said the raids netted telephones, computers, communication equipment and the scripts used by the gang, as well as a safe belonging to a core Taiwanese leader of the gang containing Thai and Chinese currency totaling Bt50 million (about $US1.47 million).

    The raid was coordinated by Police Major General Panya Mamen, deputy commander of the CIB, who said authorities have been trying to locate the gang’s headquarters for several years.

    He said the gang had been extremely difficult to track down because they had constantly moved from one location to another.

    According to Panya the gang appeared to have a slick method of operating, with the telephone operators having carefully worded and convincing scripts that were capable of persuading Thai and Chinese citizens to make online money transfers.

    Police investigations into the activities of the gang are continuing, but it is estimated they have defrauded billions of baht from people over the years.

    The 94 people arrested are currently being held at the Highway Police Station in Chiang Mai and will face court on a variety of charges at a later date.

  17. Have anyone receive a telephone call spoken by a Mandarin speaking scammer wanting to teach people Mandarin Language? It’s quite weird where I can only see 108 number on my ID listing.

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