In these 462 verdicts, we found eight telecom fraud patterns

In these 462 verdicts, we found eight telecom fraud patterns

Organisation: The Paper (China)

Publication Date: 04/10/2017


Size of team/newsroom:large


In August and September, three high-profile telecom fraud cases drew lots of public attention. We decided to look into the patterns of telecom fraud cases. is an online database of Chinese verdict documents, which was established by the Supreme Court and verdict documents from courts of all levels are required to be made public on this website. We searched for cases with keyword "telecommunication fraud" within the last five years on this website, and selected criminal cases among them, and then got 462 cases in total. Although the cases before 2014 were incomplete, since the website was launched in 2014, we found that the 462 cases covered 26 provinces around the country, related to a dozen of countries and districts around the world, and included a variety of criminal means. In conclusion, although the documents were incomplete, and the source is therefore flawed, we found that it's representative and valuable, especially for a topic that lacks of data. So we decided to use these 462 verdict documents for data analysis. After three weeks of encoding, we built a small dataset that includes variables like province of crime, time of crime, number of criminals, means of fraud, amount of fraud, convicted charges, penalty time, and etc. After further analysis, we concluded eight major patterns in telecom fraud cases in China: 1. In the 462 cases, posing as national public officials and threatening victims are the most common means of fraud, accounting for 1/4 of all cases. The criminals always told the victims that they were under investigations for suspicion of money laundering or possession of criminal activities, and then the criminals would ask the victims to transfer money to so-called "security accounts" for investigation purposes. Lure by promises of gains and fake advertisements ranked as second and third most common means. No matter what means they use, the criminals would update fraud scripts frequently so that the victims would remain unprepared. 2. No matter what means they take, the endings of the fraud scripts were to lure the victim to tell them account information or go to a bank to transfer money, and the criminals never need to show up. 3. Telecom fraud criminals always act in groups. And some of the large groups have clear role arrangements and strict hierarchy. 4. Telecom fraud is so common that the upstream and downstream industry chain is huge. The fraud groups often tightly connected with personal information sellers and backstreet dealers. 5. As the root for telecom fraud, personal information sellers were not under enough law enforcement pressure. In the verdict database, the search of "crime of illegally obtaining personal information of citizens" returns 467 cases, but the upstream "crime of illegally providing personal information of citizens" has only 21 cases. 6. Penalty of different cases show disorder. 7. The existence of "fraud towns". 8. Telecom fraud group conduct cross - border crimes.

What makes this project innovative? What was its impact?

---Innovation--- For an important topic that was lack of data, we built our own dataset. ---Impact--- The article got more than 100,000 pageviews online.

Technologies used for this project:

Excel, Illustrator
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