China’s burgeoning e-commerce industry has been remorselessly exploited by internet fraudsters to the tune of 30 billion yuan (£3bn) over the past 12 months despite police efforts to clamp down on dodgy sites.
Industry group the China Electronic Commerce Association (CECA) was behind the concerning stats.
CECA claimed that out of 198 million online shoppers in the country, 31.8 per cent had been conned by fraudulent web sites – at a conservative estimate not less than 30.8bn yuan, according to Xinhua (via TNW).
Around 70 per cent of those deceived by web scamming spent 500-2000 yuan, the report found.
The lack of uniform national standards or a recognisable kitemark for safe sites is thought to be making the fraudsters’ work much easier.
In particular, net tricksters are apparently setting up sites designed to mimic the layout of popular online stores, right down to the URL.
They will then use blackhat SEO techniques to elevate them to the top of the search rankings and post false reviews of products to make the sites appear even more legitimate.
As with most cases of low-value online fraud, the police are reluctant to get involved, especially as there is usually no record of sale, the report continued.
Police are quick to include online fraud in any of their periodical crack downs on illegal web sites, although it is always lumped in with other illegality such as pornographic content, gambling sites and political dissidence.
The Chinese government has already announced plans to address deficiencies in information security across the public and private sectors.
Although short on detail it did at least single out e-commerce as an area that warranted particular attention.
The level of online fraud is somewhat unsurprising in China given the huge sums being spent locally via the web and the relative immaturity of the market when it comes to security and authentication.
The Chinese government expects its domestic online sales to reach a world-beating 18 trillion yuan (£1.4tr) by 2015 and a recent PwC survey found citizens are twice as prolific as their counterparts in the UK and US.
However, straying from the relatively safe confines of e-commerce giants such as Alibaba can be minefield.
The firm has several anti-fraud and security capabilities built into its Taobao platform including phishing alerts, one-time password account authentication, downloadable anti-virus software and a Safety Center featuring tips for users.
As of yet, this is far from the standard in the Wild West of Chinese e-commerce. ®