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Free Android app protects Chinese from phone scams

Mon 19 Sep 2016

Mobile scam

A new app, developed by a team from Pujiang Tech in the Shenzhen province, helps Chinese citizens recognize and report phone scams and other telecoms fraud.

Vanguard Against Scams is a free app for Android phones that records and stores any calls from an unrecognized number for up to 72 hours. Users can share the recorded information via social media, sending out a scam alert to friends and followers.

Pujiang Tech developed the app in response to a highly publicized news story about a phone scam with a tragic outcome. Xu Yuyu, a Chinese student, was swindled out of her 9,900 yuan in tuition money. Phone scammers posed as officials from the Ministry of Education and directed her to pay her tuition to a specific bank account, one that belonged to the criminals. Ms. Yuyu died of a heart attack soon after. The team from Pujiang Tech was so moved by her story that they worked night and day for two weeks to develop an app that might help prevent another such tragedy from occurring.

This case is one of many that have reached Chinese news services over the last six months. Often, phone scams target students and the elderly, as well as academics and professors, as in the case of a lecturer at Tsingha University who lost a staggering 17.6 million yuan to a phone scam earlier this year.

Zeng Zhao, founder of Pujiang Tech, said, ‘The app is designed to expose every new kind of scam to the public in time.’ He also said that they are working on additional functionalities for the app, including a way to pinpoint the location of the caller, and a message to the caller to deter wire fraud. ‘We also hope the app will be able to send a message to deter the phone scammer, like, ‘Hey, you are being watched and your voice is being recorded for the police.’

Loose telecom regulations in mainland China may be partly to blame for the steadily rising instances of wire fraud. Earlier this month, phone scams were labeled a ‘major public hazard’ by Public Security Minister Guo Shengkun, who ordered a massive crackdown on telecoms fraud and related crimes. Public Security Ministry statistics show that registered telecoms fraud cases were up almost 600%, from 100,000 in 2011 to 590,000 in 2015. These cases led to the loss of approximately 10 billion yuan per year.


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