Over two million people around China have fallen prey to a scam in which they were offered free Huawei products, only to have to pay excessive fees for delivery and handling.

Users said they had seen an offer for Huawei’s wearable band on what they thought was the company’s website, and signed up, according to The Paper (in Chinese). Once the products were delivered, they were required to pay RMB 29 for logistics, storage, and labor, filling the fraudsters coffers. Upon opening the device, it became clear that the plastic product, which cost a few yuan to produce, was counterfeit.

The scammers, who were based in Harbin, made a total of RMB 80 million from the operation. According to a police investigation, they had run similar schemes since 2015 by offering free clothes, shoes, and watches to unsuspecting victims, who were then later forced to pay delivery fees. However, from June 2018 they moved on to Huawei bands. Since then the group expanded rapidly, employing hundreds to keep up with the demand, before being shut down.

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Chris Udemans

Christopher Udemans is a Shanghai-based data and graphics reporter. He covers Chinese artificial intelligence, mobility, and cybersecurity. You can contact him at chrisudemans [at] technode [dot] com.