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Police warn against quake scams

By Jin Zhu  (China Daily)

09:00, April 22, 2013

Police warned the public on Sunday to be careful with online requests for help and other quake-related postings because some have been confirmed as the work of scammers who are trying to turn a profit from the disaster in Sichuan province.

Police in Shaanxi province and the Jiangning district of Nanjing, Jiangsu province, posted notices on their micro blogs on Sunday listing online requests for help that proved to be false.

One online message called for the public's help in finding Xu Jing, a 21-year-old woman. Xu had to go to a hospital in Ya'an, Sichuan province, because her mother was seriously injured in the earthquake, it said.

But a telephone number listed for readers to call with information would charge excessive fees. In a similar message, Zhou Yugun, 17, was asked to return home because Zhou's mother was badly injured in the earthquake and wanted to see her children one last time before dying.

The two messages were widely spread on Sunday via instant messaging software, micro blogs and WeChat, a mobile phone text and voice messaging communication service.

Police called for the public to stop forwarding those messages on the Internet. The cellphone numbers they provided would charge excessive fees.

Chen Shiqu, director of the anti-human-trafficking office in the Ministry of Public Security's Criminal Investigation Department, said on Sunday that the ministry will investigate the sources of those fraudulent messages.

"Such information may have a bad effect on the public, especially when the whole country is pulling together for rescue and disaster relief efforts for the earthquake," he said.

Han Yusheng, a professor of criminal law at Renmin University of China in Beijing, said he received similar messages on Sunday through WeChat.

Internet fraud has increased in recent years with the spread of Internet access. The public should remain on high alert for such online scams, he said. "It would be better to verify those cellphone numbers at first to avoid any economic loss," he said.

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