Zhejiang’s Provincial Bureau of Industry and Commerce (ZBIC) issued a letter of recommendation to Tencent late last month in response to a number of incidents of WeChat Pay users being defrauded by individuals pretending to their WeChat friends. Tencent responded to the letter at the beginning of August, with the matter being made public yesterday (August 13).

The Zhejiang Consumer Protection Committee said it had received complaints of fraudsters copying the WeChat profile picture and name of an individual’s friend, then asking to borrow money, according to local media.  When asked to repay the loan, the lender was blocked by the scammer. Individuals affected said they were not helped by Tencent, with the company saying that it could not give out user information for privacy reasons.

“WeChat is no longer a purely social platform. As a financial platform operator, WeChat Pay should balance the relationship between customer privacy protection and property security,” a spokesperson for ZBIC is quoted as saying.

The government department said Tencent should provide more assistance to individuals affected by this sort of fraud.

“[Tencent should] actively cooperate with the judicial authorities to disclose the real information of the other party, and should not use personal privacy protection as a reason to counter the reasonable appeal of users,” the ZPIC continued.

In a letter issued August 1, Tencent detailed some improvements in response to the recommendation letter. The company said it would fully implement WeChat Pay’s real name verification system, not allowing users who have not verified their identity to transfer funds through the platform. The company said that for large transfers it would make the full name of the receiver visible to the sender, not just the last character. It also said it would improve its customer service in the aftermath of fraudulent activity.

Earlier this week (August 13), an investigation found that criminal groups were luring in victims under the guise of educating them about WeChat and Alipay mini programs. They were then duped into paying tens of thousands of RMB for projects that only cost a few hundred.

Christopher Udemans is TechNode's former Shanghai-based data and graphics reporter. He covered Chinese artificial intelligence, mobility, cleantech, and cybersecurity.

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