China cracks down on telecom fraud

Telecom fraud is a big problem in China. The latest response by a large telecom service provider is the most severe action yet. Will it work, or will users just find other ways to communicate? Let’s have a look.

Harsh measures

China Mobile will begin blocking all calls and text messages from overseas by default from May 20, 2022. Customers will have to opt in to receive international calls and text messages.

This seems heavy handed. Why so harsh?

  1. China has been battling telecom fraud for years. There’s been a constant stream of news stories about large scale arrests of telecom fraud suspects. 440,000 suspects were arrested last year.
  2. Domestic law enforcement efforts are driving fraudsters out of the country. Currently, about 60% of telecom fraud cases are based overseas. Fraudsters are calling into China from places such as Cambodia, the Philippines, Myanmar and Taiwan.
  3. Telecom fraud continues. In some large cities, telecom fraud cases account for more than 50% of criminal cases.

Other Chinese service providers began blocking text messages from overseas by default in 2021. China Mobile has raised the ante by blocking all international calls and text messages by default.


Will this tactic fix international telephone service in China or hasten its demise?

“This won’t affect that many people, since many of us don’t use the international phone system anymore,” said Frank Tsai, the founder of China Crossroads, in a report by Sixth Tone. The same article recounts a Chinese student in the U.K. who said she usually uses the messaging app WeChat to contact her parents but relies on the phone during emergencies.

“As increasingly more people gain access to the internet, international calls and text have become less relied on,” reports That’s Mag.

Service providers, regulators, and law enforcement must find ways to sustain trust in telephone service, preferably without shutting portions of it down.

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