WeChat accounts are readily available for sale via several online channels, with black market accounts being used to defraud unsuspecting victims.
According to an investigation by the Beijing Youth Daily, the accounts on offer vary regarding their authentication levels, from newly registered profiles to old accounts which have undergone real-name verification, and those that have been bound to payment tools. Prices range between RMB 58 (around $8.50) to RMB 500.
Typically, when signing up for a WeChat account, a username, phone number, and password are required. Real-name verification is achieved in the registration process by binding a user’s phone number—which is linked to their ID—to their WeChat account. Accounts are also verified by registering a bank card within the app.
Black market unverified accounts are the cheapest, as their payment and transfer abilities are limited. However, those which have gone through the verification process are more expensive as they have few transfer limits.
Unverified accounts can set up group chats and in some cases have been used to conduct fraud.
WeChat was not immediately available for comment.
According to the report, a Wuhan resident surnamed He was invited to one such group containing 300 people. The group was purported to contain financial analysts and experts who offered investment advice on financial products.
Following their advice, he increased his stake after gaining nearly RMB 2,000 return in his first investment through the group. He eventually lost more than RMB 80,000 and was kicked out of the group.
He reported his experience to police in the central Chinese city of Wuhan. They found that nearly all of the 300 accounts in the group were “shill” profiles. The police reportedly recovered He’s money from the fraudsters and dissolved the 300-person WeChat group. He was the only victim of the case.
This is not the first time WeChat has been used as a tool to commit fraud. In August, Zhejiang’s Consumer Protection Committee said it had received complaints of fraudsters copying the name and profile picture of an individual’s friend, then asking to borrow money. When requested to repay the loan, the lender was blocked by the scammer. The money was never recovered.