A New Virus; QR Code Theft in China


There have been an increasing number of reports relating to QR fraud. One lady in Guangzhou found ¥1,000 in her WeChat purse missing after using an Ofo bike. At noon, when she returned home from the office, she decided to once again take an Ofo bike. After scanning, her cellphone displayed, “You did not lock your bike last time!” She contacted customer service whereupon someone claiming to be staff told her that the problem can only be solved if she follows their instructions. So did so, after which the money was gone from her account. The transaction record shows that her money was paid to a hotel in Guangzhou. She dialled that number again but they did not admit to having any relation to her missing money.

A Mr. Li in Quangzhou also met such fraud. He intended to get his deposit back from a bike sharing app and so he called customer service to ask for assistance. Instead of receiving the deposit, ¥5,000 was removed from his credit card. He found a service number online and was told that the deposit can only be returned via Wechat. After adding their Wechat, Mr. Li was asked to provide his QR code for payment. He later received several messages showing deductions on his account. He lost a total of ¥5,000.

This new type of fraud is termed “Bike Share Scan Fraud”. In the most common instance, the fraudster covers the original QR code with their own Wechat and Alipay QR; they may even change their name to that of the bike sharing app (or similar) to convince people. Really professional fraudsters even stick a fake QR code on the bike that guides users to download a fake app in the name of bike renting. Then they can plant a Trojan horse virus into people’s phones to steal money out of their accounts, and even control their mobile phones.

QR Codes within the Legal System

In judicial practice, such QR code crime can be classified as fraud or theft on account of the similarity with parting money from you against your own will. However, it is difficult for the victims to receive their money back. The only clue that the victims can provide is often the transaction record; therefore it requires specific technology to solve the case. Furthermore, the production and circulation of QR codes are not to a unified standard, while it costs nothing to produce a QR code which leads to the high rate of such crime. Although we have realised the QR code vulnerabilities, relevant laws and measures have not been implemented.

Prevention Better than Cure

The problem would be best solved by prevention rather than cure. Fast-developed new technology requires improvements in our regulation methods to prevent illegal behaviour from the very beginning. Relevant authorities can unravel the QR code to find the source; they can test information through a specialised regulation platform and remove it before it reaches users. A QR code central data base shall also be set up to register all codes in circulation, therefore allowing the monitoring of the production and circulation of QR codes more efficiently. Government should in addition review and record the content that the QR code presents and evaluate the qualification of those platforms and assign them on a real-name system. On the basis of such regulatory measures, we should also step up the process to complete the supporting legal system.

When it comes to the roles of law, we tend to believe that laws regulate and control our lives, making us behave according to the instruction of law. However, our world also has an influence on the law and the tendency of our future shapes the development of law. When brand new things spring up, the present law cannot always fit the needs of the new era.

Yet, the law remains our last defender. As we enjoy the convenience that modern technology brings us, do not ignore the inherent risks behind it.

This article is intended solely for informational purposes and does not constitute legal advice. Although the information in this article was obtained from reliable official sources, no guarantee is made with regard to its accuracy and completeness. For more information please visit dandreapartners.com or WeChat: dandreapartners.
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Legal columnist Carlo D’Andrea is Chair of the Legal & Competition Working group of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China; Shanghai Chapter, Coordinator of the Nanjing Working Group of the Italian Chamber of Commerce in China and has taught Chinese law (commercial and contractual) at Rome 3 University. 法律作家代开乐担任中国欧盟商会上海分会法律与竞争工作组主席,中国意大利商会劳动集团的协调员与曾经在罗马三大担任企业咨询课程中中国商法、合同法的课程教授。

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