One of the most sneaky, sophisticated, and costly scams originating from China these days is what Is called “Latent Identity Theft”. It means personal information you provide today will be used months later to steal your identity and bank account. The reason for the prolonged fraud is to distance the perpetrator from your memory. So by giving your passport information to a dishonest visa agent today, you would never suspect him or her six months from now when the police want to arrest you for credit card, check fraud, or immigration fraud. This is especially true if the visa agent was friendly and gave you a good deal and service.
Interpol estimates that 30% of all international identity theft originates from Chinese visa agents. You can read more about it here: http://eslwatch.info/articles/141-asia-articles/china-in-asia-article/12527-scam-warning-for-china-expat-foreign-teachers-avoid-using-chinese-visa-agents-or-risk-identity-theft.html
Because there is no equivalent to the BBB nor FTC in China, and because laws are still selectively enforced, China’s expats are often exploited and targeted for a variety of scams. Some are more costly than others, but in recent years, they have all become more sophisticated and harder to detect, especially for newly arrived China expats. Despite warnings posted all over the internet, most all of us still get taken in for yet a new “clever” fraud like the “fake tax scam” and a number of others we wrote about here in 2012: http://www.cityweekend.com.cn/beijing/blog/scam-alert-foreign-teacher-fraud/
But the most common frauds experienced by the most expats are these three:
1.) Illegal and black market job placements without Z visa sponsorship that transforms law abiding expats into illegal aliens liable for arrest, imprisonment, and deportation.
2.) Latent Identity Theft where a Chinese visa or travel agent provides you a satisfactory service today but weeks from now sells your personal identification files to identity theft rings for $1,000 causing you legal grief and fees that may not surface for up to six months.
3.) The Silent Scam explained fully at scam.com. http://www.scam.com/showthread.php?t=642187
Identifying the bad apple China visa consultants and shady job agents is not too difficult and easy if you use the blacklist put out at http://chinascamwatch.org
Since all three of these three scams originate with the same group of perpetrators (unlicensed people using disposable contact information) we are sharing the following red flags with you so you can spot and avoid the danger in advance. So if you run into travel, visa, or job agents that fall into any five or more of these categories, you are most likely dealing with a fraudster.
1. Employees all use Chinglish names like “Peter Gao” or “Susan Liu”. These are fabricated ghost names that are virtually untraceable.
2. Their web site is less than a year old (or they don’t have one at all)
3. Their web site uses a .org or .cn domain.
4. Their web site contains no verifiable street address for their office.
5. Their web site has no land-line telephone number published – only disposable mobile numbers.
6. They demand copies of your passport before you receive a written job offer and sign a contract.
7. They cannot produce a color scan copy of their SAIC Chinese business license which can be verified on line.
8. They insist on meeting you in a coffee shop or your office – never their own.
9. They always fill out your visa application in Chinese so you cannot understand if they are lying or not.
10. They are not members of the BBB or any legitimate Chamber of Commerce. (if they are US-based)
11. They use disposable free emails like gmail, hotmail, sina, 163, qq, 126, yahoo, etc.
12. They claim there is someone else with your same name in the computer system and they need your taxpayer ID (SSN) to clarify for the Chinese visa bureau.
13. They tell you that you don’t need a Z visa right away and to just come to China on an L, F, or M, visa.
14. They offer to sell you a fake diploma and/or TEFL certificate, or FEC
15. They tell you that you have a job before you ever even interviewed with the school or director employer.
16. They never give email confirmations of verbal promises made to you.
17. They rush or pressure you to sign a contract giving a fake deadline that is only a few days away.
18. They ask you for the names and phone numbers of your teaching colleagues as a professional references. (They are later contacted and offered jobs in China)
19. No written job description with the name and school location is provided to you until after your arrive in China.
20. They ask for up-front money or a deposit of any kind.
21. They coach you how to lie when applying for your visa.
22. They tell you that the average wage for expats in China is 5,000-7,000 yuan per month.
23. They tell you that you must use a visa agent because the application process is very complicated and confusing and/or all the forms are in Chinese! (absolutely false).
24. That without a TEFL certificate it is impossible to find a teaching job in China that pays more than 5,000 Yuan per month.
25. That your China employer must hold your passport for a 3-6 month probationary period.
Ten of the worst unregistered Identity Thieves work through companies that frequently change their names or hijack a well-known name of a visa company. So beware of these companies here or any other variation if they cannot send you a) a color scan of their SAIC license and b) their provincial tax bureau registration from China:
China Panda Visa
Beijing Service Center Visas
China Golden Bridge Visa
Great Wall Visa
Free China Visa
Middle Kingdom Visa Service
AK China Visa
Northern China Visa Service
China Expat Visa Service
Red Dragon Visa
Honesty Visa Service