Users in English speaking countries are quite familiar with the Nigerian scam: an important guy in Nigeria needs your help getting his money out of the country and if you assist with some transaction fees, a chunk of his fortune could be yours. But what about non-English speaking countries? What forms the baseline level of internet crap? Today we’re going to look at the Chinese version – the seminar scam.
Step 1: the pitchThis is actually more common via SMS, presumably due to limited mobile spam tools. The subject line will reference upcoming training for generic business skills like project management, book keeping, or HR.
This particular message we received is advertising a "project leadership" seminar.
These pitches vary in topic, generally staying around vague business topics and are so common that almost any Chinese internet user is likely to see one eventually. The provided mobile number doesn't show any results besides more spam and the QQ isn't registered to any notable groups. Generally, the accounts associated with these emails are used exclusively for the scam.
Step 2: the formNaturally, we want to attend said seminar, so we sent a response asking how to register. Within a day, the scammer responded:
He's referencing a file that has a detailed agenda, as well as registration info. He also wants our Weixin, so that we can "maintain a long-term relationship."
The attached, clean file includes a “registration form” requiring the following:
- Company name, address, and bank with account number
- Attendee’s name, phone number, and email addresses.
Step 3: the paymentJust in case we were wondering about receipts, the form lets us know that we can pick up our tickets the day of the “training,” and then provides a bank account that we can wire money directly to.
Given that we didn’t pay the guy and we did not go to Shanghai to check out the “venue”, there's still a possibility that this may be legit. That said:
- We responded from a free Chinese webmail, offering no company affiliation. This did not faze the scammer.
- There are estimates that up to 40% of Chinese private educational institutions (training centers, job skills, etc.) are unlicensed and/or fraudulent
- The price of this training is 1800 yuan, which makes up a significant portion of the average Chinese monthly wage of 2300 yuan.