Chinese scammers take a leaf from their Nigerian brethren
Chinese scammers take a leaf from their Nigerian brethren

Chinese cybercriminals are putting their own spin on the infamous Nigerian Prince scams, but replacing email with text messages promising business classes in exchange for the victim's bank account number.

Malwarbytes researchers, who detailed this new methodology in a blog, found the Chinese con artists have altered the Nigerian's social engineering and delivery method in order to more properly target locals. They have replaced the well-worn email campaign promising a financial windfall if only the recipient will part with their banking information with an SMS text message that advertises classes and seminars for different business skills that an up and coming Chinese person might find useful.

SMS is the preferred delivery method, Malwarebytes said, due to the limited number of mobile spam tools available and because mobile devices are the dominant device used in that region.

A typical message carries a subject line hawking a “leadership seminar” to grab the person's interest, but instead of simply offering up the classes location and cost the interaction takes a dark turn. Those who attempt to attend are asked to send along some detailed personal information, such as, their name, company, address, email address and their bank account number.

“Scammers will take the target's money, and PII as well for use in further scams. Should a user actually fill this out, they will be signed up for every spammer's list in perpetuity,” the blog said.

But that's not all.

An attendee is, of course, expected to buy a ticket to the seminar so the victim is told to wire the money to a bank account and that they can pick up their ticket the day of the event. At 1,800 yuan the fee is significant as the average monthly salary in China is about 5,600 yuan, according to Trading Economics.

This type of scam is very common in China. Malwarebytes noted that 40 percent of private educational institutions are unlicensed or fraudulent in that country and normally target the most vulnerable part of the population, the poor and uneducated.