Dec 21, 2016 05:03 PM

Supreme People's Court Clamps Down on Phone Scammers

(Beijing) — China's judicial authorities have widened the legal net used to catch tech-savvy fraudsters as it tries to clamp down on widespread scams carried out via short-message services, phone calls and phishing websites.

Fraudsters found guilty of swindling victims of a total 3,000 yuan ($430) or more using such technology can now face criminal charges and up to three years in prison because the amount is considered "relatively large" under a new set of legally binding recommendations jointly released Tuesday by the Supreme People's Court, the Supreme People's Procuratorate and Ministry of Public Security.

Ill-gotten gains of 30,000 yuan or more are labeled an "enormous gain," and the crime is punishable by up to 10 years in prison, according to the rules.

In conventional swindling cases, which involve between 3,000 and 10,000 yuan but not phone services or the internet, Chinese law allows regional judicial authorities to decide whether a case qualifies for prosecution.

In such scamming cases, the definition of an "enormous gain" varies from region to region. It ranges from 30,000 yuan in less-developed regions to 100,000 yuan or more in some affluent areas, according to the country's criminal law.

The new rules are an attempt by law enforcement authorities to come down hard on high-tech scammers, said Li Ruiyi, a deputy unit head at the Supreme People's Court. Lawmakers have also taken into account that swindlers are no longer bound by geographic borders, he said.

The move to tighten the noose on tech-savvy scammers comes after a string of high-profile cases in recent months that has shed light on a growing social malaise in which ordinary telecom and internet users have been duped and swindled out of hundreds of thousands of yuan each year.

One recent case that led to a public outcry was that of Xu Yuyu, a 19-year-old from a rural village in Shandong province, who died of heart failure after falling prey to a scammer in August. She lost 9,900 yuan, which her family had saved for her university tuition, to a fraudster who posed as a local education official offering help with a financial aid application.

Under the new recommendations, high-tech swindlers will face tougher punishments if their scams are linked to a victims' suicide, untimely death or a serious mental problem.

Scammers who target the elderly, the disabled, minors and students will also face extra charges, the document said, without elaborating.

Contact reporter Li Rongde (

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