Chinese police have captured more than 2,700 suspects and uncovered 8,000 cases involving cross-border telecom fraud since 2016, a senior official from the Ministry of Public Security said.
In addition, the ministry has sent special working teams abroad to assist in investigating transnational telecom swindling 29 times. They destroyed more than 180 fraud dens and the amount of money involved was up to 1 billion yuan ($151 million), Chen Shiqu, deputy director of the ministry's Criminal Investigation Bureau, told China Daily.
"Telecom fraud has seriously violated the legitimate rights of the victims, destroyed the normal market order and the market credit environment, which has posed a serious risk to sustainable development of the economy and social stability," he said.
In recent years, telecom frauds has been on the rise due to loopholes in management and supervision and the public's lack of awareness on the issue. Some cases have aroused attention from the public and media.
Chen said suspects from Southeast Asian or African countries usually set up the fraud network abroad and direct the Chinese suspects to commit crimes from remote locations. They often use internet technology and pretend to be customer service personnel or law enforcement officers in targeting victims on the Chinese mainland.
The suspects usually cheat the Chinese victims by claiming their personal information has been leaked and their credit cards have been stolen by others, or they are involved in money laundering, drug trafficking or smuggling forbidden items. They threaten victims, who then transfer money to a "designated safe bank account" offered by the suspects, he said.
Guo Wei, a police officer from the ministry's Criminal Investigation Bureau, said the prime suspects in most of the fraud cases that have been uncovered involving more than 10 million yuan are from Taiwan.
He said Taiwan suspects often establish fraud operations overseas, in places like Japan, Turkey, Greece, South Africa, Fiji and even the United States or Australia. They use fake identities, phone numbers or bank accounts to swindle suspects.
A typical case occurred in December, when 85 defendants, including 44 Taiwan residents, were sentenced in a Beijing court to prison terms ranging from 21 months to 15 years for their involvement in a cross-border telecom fraud.
According to the court, 12 of the 85 people convicted returned 460,000 yuan.
Of the 44 Taiwan suspects, two primary suspects were convicted of fraud and sentenced to 15 years. The other 42 received sentences ranging from 21 months to 14 years, the court said.
Between June 2014 and April 2016, the suspects set up operations in Indonesia or Kenya to conduct telecom fraud targeting people from the Chinese mainland, according to the court.
The court said they pretended to be customer service personnel at an express company, working staff at a medical insurance department or even law enforcement officers to swindle the victims.
In order to tackle the issue, China will strengthen intelligence sharing and joint investigation cooperation with Southeast Asian and African countries to combat cross-border telecom fraud, Chen said.
In addition, Chinese police will work closely with their counterparts from relevant countries to focus on some major and individual cases.
They will smash transnational telecom fraud criminal rings and completely cut off the chain of funds, Chen said.
"Chinese police should enhance cooperation with the telecom operators and finance sectors to block the channels at the source," said Li Wei, a lawyer from Beijing Lawyers Association.
In addition, it is necessary to update the laws to improve a social credit system, while raising the public's awareness to avoid being deceived, she added.