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January 31, 2011

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Blackmailers hit newbie vendors

ROOKIE online vendors are being blackmailed by "professional complainers" threatening to leave bad feedback unless they are paid off.

Inexperienced traders on, the country's leading e-commerce platform, have told Shanghai Daily that the extortionists are circumventing the site's regulations.

For instead of communicating on Taobao's official chatting platform, they get in touch via QQ or by cell phone.

If vendors refuse to pay up, they leave negative feedback about the seller's products and service, seriously damaging their reputation.

But most inexperienced vendors are unaware how to protect themselves.

One online prepaid card seller, nicknamed "Naughty Baby," told Shanghai Daily she was forced to pay 50 yuan to a customer who left negative remarks about her products.

The vendor said the blackmailer bought a 50-yuan prepaid card and left a negative remark immediately, but when she tried0020to contact him via Taobao's chatting software, she found a QQ number to guide her to another chatting platform.

This was to avoid being detected by Tabao, as its regulations ask vendors reporting a blackmailer to provide the record on its own chatting platform.

Other extortionists send short messages or call their victims to escape Taobao's attention.

The young vendor, taking her first steps running a business, was pressurized into paying out. "He showed me screengrabs indicating that he was a 'professional complainer' and promised to withdraw the remark once I paid," said the vendor. "I was scared of losing customers, so I paid up."

Although the vendor thought of reporting the blackmailer to Taobao, she gave up due to a lack of evidence. But she did recount her experience online, and many other vendors told her that they had the same experience.

When Shanghai Daily reported the case to Taobao officials, they immediately carried out an investigation. The blackmailer's ID was tracked down and the result showed that he had given three negative remarks to online vendors in one week.

The ID has been banned and the money will be returned to the victim, said a Taobao official, who asked not to be named.

Extortionists target inexperienced vendors unfamiliar with the platform's regulations, but it is totally avoidable, said the official.

She advised new vendors to collect evidence and report blackmailers to Taobao service workers. Keeping silent would only help them grow in number, but reporting would stop them, said the official.


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