Police in China are warning that digital yuan-themed scams are starting to appear in the country with more regularity – as opportunistic fraudsters attempt to trick citizens out of their money with central bank digital currency (CBDC)-themed get-rich-quick schemes.
The digital token is nearing issuance, with the latest pilot seeing thousands of citizens receive bona fide handouts ahead of the Lunar New Year holidays earlier in February. Beijing is looking to issue its token ahead of next year’s Winter Olympic Games, less than 12 months away. But developments of this nature appear to have inspired a new breed of scammers in the Middle Kingdom.
In a post from the cybercrime unit of the Weifang police force in Shandong Province, officers shared a report originally published by media outlet Sina last week, detailing a sophisticated “scam” named the “Central Bank’s International Wallet” (literal translation) that appears to have enlisted some 500 users. The group is claiming that recruiting fellow users to digital yuan wallet-themed platform will grant them access to a secret, government-run USD 186m CBDC promotion fund.
Individual users, say the apparent fraudsters, stand to make as much as USD 24,800 by participating.
The group claims that its “international wallet” platform will go online in March, but appears to have harvested its members’ personal data, including real names, bank details, and telephone numbers via a smartphone app it says is key to accessing its network.
The apparent fraudsters claim that two-thirds of the fund’s holdings will be used to promote the digital yuan abroad, with the remainder to be used internally – by early-adopting individuals and businesses.
However, the media outlet points out the fact that the central People’s Bank of China (PBoC) has repeatedly warned the public to beware of digital yuan imposter organizations that “may involve fraud and multi-level marketing strategies,” warning that the public should be on its guard against bogus schemes that are not officially affiliated with the government or major commercial, state-owned banks.
The alleged scammers appear to be attempting to raise funds by claiming that transactions conducted via the “wallet” they provide will be incentivized, meaning members can hope to receive 2% bonuses when they send money to the platform.
In classic pyramid style, these bonuses can be multiplied by recruiting new members to the platform, the masterminds claimed, per data obtained by the media outlet.
The report comes just two months after state media reported on a range of other MLM fraudsters were detected offering “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunities to make money by joining digital yuan-themed groups.
Our has also seen evidence that the Central Bank’s International Wallet’s operators are active on the WeChat social media platform, as well as evidence of the wallet being discussed on PlusToken-related social media forums.
A small number of diehard PlusToken investors are still active, despite a massive police operation that officers claimed had totally “destroyed” the international crypto-themed Ponzi scam last year.
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