2018-03-01 14:04:04

Police in southern China have arrested eight people on suspicion of illegally acquiring over 100 million pieces of personal information, using these details to buy train tickets in bulk, and reselling them at a profit, Guangzhou Daily reported Thursday.

During the Chinese New Year of 2017, railway police in Foshan, a city in Guangdong province, arrested a man surnamed Zhan for reselling train tickets online, after discovering that he had a record of purchasing over 7,000 tickets.

After further investigation, the police arrested another seven suspects based in the northern port city of Tianjin, the eastern province of Fujian, and central China’s Hunan province. All told, they had illegally collected over 100 million pieces of personal information, including ID numbers, mobile phone numbers, and email addresses.

Zhan confessed that he had been reselling train tickets since May 2016, and had purchased over 2 million personal details.

The police visited some of the residents in Guangdong whose personal information Zhan had used, but none of them were aware that their identities had been compromised and used to purchase the train tickets.

Every year, the Spring Festival travel rush begins two weeks before Chinese New Year and lasts 40 days. With hundreds of millions of Chinese returning to their hometowns to spend the year’s most important holiday with their families and friends, the official website of the China Railway Corporation, receives an incredible amount of traffic. Many passengers complain that it’s too difficult to purchase tickets online — in part because scalpers use “ticket-snatching” plug-ins to hoard them.

Such scalpers usually buy as many tickets as they can get their hands on, especially for the most popular routes, with names and ID numbers they’ve acquired themselves or purchased through a third party. Then when they meet a prospective buyer, they can refund a ticket for a sold-out train and immediately repurchase it in the name of the buyer, who pays a premium price for this service.

Last Friday, state news agency Xinhua reported that railway police across the country have so far handled 145 cases of ticket scalping during this year’s Spring Festival rush, apprehending 150 scalpers and confiscating 2,373 tickets.

But before such deliberate efforts to target scalpers, the problem was far worse. Last year, police arrested 1,998 railway ticket scalpers during the 40-day Spring Festival travel rush, according to Xinhua, resulting in 1,600 cases and 43,000 seized tickets.

“Most of the suspects believe that their online transactions are hidden,” said the Foshan railway police. “And because the demand [for their services] is large, they see it as a shortcut to getting rich.”

Editor: David Paulk.

(Header image: A man counts a stack of train tickets in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, Feb. 20, 2007. VCG)