Text Message Fraud (a sample)

20 Aug 2013
Chinese way

Photo by .sl. on Flickr

There’s a fair amount of text message (SMS) fraud going on in China, and if you have cell phone number here, you’re likely to receive this type of text at some point. As a foreigner, though, if you have trouble reading the text, you may get too caught up in trying to decipher what it says and forget to ask yourself, “could this be a scam?

So here’s an example of a fraudulent text message I received just the other day:

> 我是房东,我换号码了, [This is the landlord. I’ve changed my number.]

> 你记一下,以后找我就打这个。 [Please write it down. In the future, you can reach me at this number.]

> 另外,这次租金请打我爱人卡上, [Also, this time please pay the rent to my spouse’s account.]

> 工行 621226.240200.6159780 [ICBC 621226-240200-6159780]

> 李敏,谢谢 [Li Min. Thanks!]

A few notes on what makes this text a little bit crafty:

1. The landlord’s changed his/her number. That’s why you don’t recognize the number. And you’re welcome to contact him/her at the number! Seems legit.

2. Oh, but now you have to send money. And the reason you don’t recognize the account is because it’s the landlord’s spouse’s account.

3. Here’s the kicker. The spouse’s name is Li Min (李敏). This is a deliberately gender neutral name (although it’s more likely to be a female name). The words for “landlord” (房东) and “spouse” (爱人) are also gender neutral. So whether your actual landlord is male or female, the message still works.

4. The spouse’s surname, Li (), is not a coincidence. It’s #1 in the list of common Chinese surnames.

Don’t fall for this stuff, guys. I receive messages like this once or twice a month. They tend to follow a very similar pattern to the one above.

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John Pasden

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

Comments

  1. The chief editor of a Shanghai-based Russian-speaking collective blog Magazeta.com has come up with a funny reply to this type of spam, you can see on his FB page:
    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10152060816662166&set=a.95338902165.108114.717952165&type=1&theater

  2. We got one of these last month! Emailed our landlord just to make sure. Yikes.

  3. Good post.

    Coincidentally I received a scam text as well and just posted about it too! http://www.nommoc.com/learn-chinese-in-tianjin-with-a-spam-text-message-about-illegal-receipts/

    There is just too many of these texts to go around… but I so agree with your post here, we need to post and translate more of these so that all of us living hear, especially any newbies with the language and to China, don’t fall prey!

    Nice work…

  4. Isn’t it rather easy to track this scammer down by investigating the associated bank account? You can’t open one without an ID.

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