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November 18, 2011

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Ordered a cellphone ... got a box of soap

POLICE are urging online shoppers to check the contents of parcels before paying delivery staff to counter a bogus courier scam.

In one recent case, a student who ordered a cellphone ended up with a box of soap.

Police say they have busted four gangs working this type of con and held 17 suspects.

According to police, members conspired with e-commerce platform insiders to acquire online shoppers' details, including when an order was due to be delivered.

Disguised as courier company staff, a gang member would arrive on the victim's doorstep with a bogus product, take the money to settle the bill, and then flee.

Unsuspecting consumers were duped into paying out more than 300,000 yuan (US$47,230) in more than 500 cases, police said.

The scam first came to the attention of Shanghai police in July, when a student at East China Normal University discovered the cellphone he ordered online and paid for on delivery turned out to be a box of soap.

"The conman had detailed information on the victim and the freight note looked real, so he was not suspicious and paid," said Zhang Hui, a detective on the case. "The modus operandi was new."

Police found delivery information was leaked from a company in Guangdong Province that provides data services to a major express company.

The names of the companies were not disclosed.

The information was first sold by a suspect, surnamed Wang, from the company for 20 yuan (US$3) per person, police claim.

Details were then scalped by a middleman, surnamed Zhu, who charged the fake deliverymen 30 percent of the payment, police said.

The two were detained by the police in July.

Similar cases have been reported in Beijing, Tianjin, Shijiazhuang and Zhengzhou and crackdowns are continuing, according to police.


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