Chinatown, San Francisco. Image: Andrea Badino on Unsplash

FBI warns of cybercriminals posing as PRC to target Chinese communities

Cybercriminals posing as members of China’s government are targeting Chinese nationals based in the United States, according to a new advisory from the FBI.

The law enforcement agency said the scammers are posing as law enforcement officers or prosecutors from the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in an effort to defraud people.

“Criminals tell victims they are suspects in financial crimes and threaten them with arrest or violence if they do not pay the criminals. Criminals exploit widely publicized efforts by the People’s Republic of China government to harass and facilitate repatriation of individuals living in the United States to build plausibility for their fraud,” the FBI said in a public service announcement.

“Criminals typically call victims, sometimes using spoofed numbers to appear as if the call is from the Chinese Ministry of Public Security, one of its localized Public Security Bureaus, or a US-based Chinese Consulate,” the alert said. “Criminals may also communicate through online applications.”

In some cases, the FBI has found that criminals may show victims fake documents like warrants to prove their accusations or may use previously acquired information to legitimize their scams.

The FBI urged people to be wary of anyone accusing them of a crime in another country and noted that phone numbers can be spoofed to look like they’re coming from official offices.

People should never release any personal or financial information if contacted by someone they don’t know and any scams should be reported to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center

“If you believe you have been contacted by individuals claiming to be a Chinese authority, contact your local FBI field office,” the FBI said. “Foreign government officials conducting legitimate law enforcement activity in the United States must act in coordination with US federal authorities.”

The scams resemble a campaign unveiled by the FBI in October, where members of the PRC security and intelligence apparatus were accused of “accused of conducting surveillance of and engaging in a campaign to harass and coerce a U.S. resident to return to the PRC as part of an international extralegal repatriation effort known as ‘Operation Fox Hunt.’”

The FBI alert also comes months after officials in Texas admitted that they had been scammed by a Chinese cybercriminal group into shipping them at least 3,000 official Texas driver’s licenses.

The group exploited license applications on the Texas.gov website by using information on the dark web to answer security questions about people of Asian descent living in Texas. Once the new licenses were sent to the group, they sold them for an undisclosed price to people who could pass for those pictured on the licenses.

The Texas Tribune reported that the FBI is investigating reports that the scam was perpetrated in at least three other states.

Jonathan Greig

Jonathan Greig is a Breaking News Reporter at Recorded Future News. Jonathan has worked across the globe as a journalist since 2014. Before moving back to New York City, he worked for news outlets in South Africa, Jordan and Cambodia. He previously covered cybersecurity at ZDNet and TechRepublic.

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