Scam Spotlight: Chinese Consulate Con Returns

Scam Spotlight: Chinese Consulate Con Returns

October 14th, 2019 - Telecom, Identity and Protection

By Lavinia Kennedy, Director of Product Management

Last summer, robocall scammers bombarded U.S. cities with heavy Chinese immigrant populations such as New York City and San Francisco. The robocalls – in Mandarin – purported to come from the Chinese Consulate and directed the recipient to call the Beijing Police Department about financial crimes in China they were being investigated for. Even the New York Police Department was not spared from the scam, as numerous officers received the calls themselves in addition to responding to frantic questions from Mandarin-speaking residents across the city.

With Halloween approaching, it’s appropriate to quote Heather O’Rourke’s catchphrase in Poltergeist II: “They’re baaaaack!”. The Chinese robocall scam that is, not evil spirits. The scam made a comeback a few months ago, with over 6,200 crowd-source reports this year and many, many more unreported cases.

How does the ploy work? According to the FTC, bad actors are making calls in Mandarin explaining that the person on the receiving end needs to pick up a package at the Chinese Consulate. The caller usually follows with an assertion that their U.S. status is at stake and a request for bank or credit card information.

Because they cast a wide net, many non-Mandarin speakers are being targeted as well. For them, it’s just an annoying call, but for Chinese people they do manage to contact, panic and confusion often ensue.

The FTC puts it best:

Regardless of who you are or who says they’re calling, never send money to anyone who calls and asks you to send it. Never give your Social Security number, your bank or credit card number, or other sensitive information to anyone who calls and asks for it. Same thing if they email or message you through a social media platform such as WeChat: just don’t respond. That’s a scam. And neither the real Chinese Consulates nor the Chinese Embassy will ever call you to ask for money.

It’s important to remember that if you receive a phone call from a government entity and you’re unsure if it’s legitimate, hang up and call the official number yourself. This is best and safest way to make sure you remain safe from this relentless scam.

In addition to following FTC guidance, consumers can protect themselves by leveraging telecom provider robocall detection solutions powered by TNS Call Guardian. According to a Mind Commerce study, Call Guardian correctly identified spoofed numbers 98% of the time compared to only 64% for other solutions.

TNS analyzes robocall data from more than one billion daily call events across hundreds of telecom providers. Because of this volume of data, TNS extracts insights on emerging robocaller trends and tactics. While it is difficult to predict what the next major robocall scam will be, we do know this: scammers continue to rapidly evolve their tactics and targets to evade detection efforts. This means consumers must remain vigilant when it comes to suspicious incoming calls, and carriers must continue to commit to deploying innovative solutions to protect their subscribers.

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