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Foreign scams hook Chinese unused to global tricks

By Charles Xie (Global Times)

14:25, June 02, 2012

Chinese are less naïve about scammers than they once were. In the face of a barrage of e-mails and phone messages claiming everything from lottery victories to kidnapped relative, they've become inured to these scams. Even if they don't read about them online, friends or newspapers will clue them into the latest tricks.

This is a change from a few years ago, when scams using modern technology were just kicking off in China. I learned my first lesson when I was in college. It was a text message claiming I had won a new laptop through a lucky draw I hadn't participated in. At that time, I was excited and did almost everything the scammer told me. But I balked at the last step when he asked me to deposit 1,000 yuan in a bank account.

However, the spread of mass communications also means the gate to the outside world is more open than before. Scams from foreign countries are starting to appear in ordinary Chinese inboxes. And some Chinese can still easily become their perfect prey.

A few weeks ago, my mum met an old friend, whom she hadn't seen in over a decade. The woman, Ms Xia, told us that she was about to marry a US army general in Afghanistan and would receive a huge fortune from him, something like $1 million in assets and a cushy UN job. She offered to help my mum out with her own business difficulties, and my mum was convinced she was honest.

To prove her honesty, Xia gave me access to her e-mail. In her inbox I found two suspicious e-mails sent from [email protected] and [email protected] Both e-mail claimed that they worked for the UN, tricked Xia into believing that a military general in Afghanistan was in love with her, and told her to send $500,000 to apply for a "UN passport" to meet the man.

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