Robocalls in Mandarin have become a near daily occurrence across North America. Most non-Mandarin speakers hang-up. But many Chinese immigrants have been scammed out of millions of dollars.
CGTN’s Karina Huber reports from New York.
New Yorkers are increasingly getting Mandarin calls that say the following:
“This is the Chinese Embassy. We are calling to inform you that you have a file delivered and hasn’t been picked up for several days.”
The calls aren’t from the Chinese embassy. They’re part of an elaborate robocall scam targeting Chinese immigrants in cities across North America as well as in Australia and New Zealand.
The New York Police Department said 21 Chinese immigrants in the city have fallen prey to the scam, losing at least $2.5 million since December.
What to do when targeted by robocalls:
-file consumer complaint at www.ftc.gov
-report fraudulent phone numbers to www.ftc.gov
-register on National Do Not Call Registry
-download robocall blocking apps
-do not interact with unknown callers even if it comes from authoritative source
Source: U.S. Federal Trade Commission
Wellington Chen, executive director of the Chinatown Partnership that works with the Chinese community in New York, said the scam plays on the fears of immigrants – some of whom are undocumented.
“When you’re undocumented and you’re here and you get a request for information, you will respond rather quickly, and that is where the trap is,” said Chen.
Those who engage with the calls are often told they need to pick up a package that could impact their status in the U.S. They are then asked for personal information or told to send money to resolve the issue.
That, said the Federal Trade Commission, should be a red flag.
“If you’re receiving a call from someone – anyone – even if they’re pretending to be someone you know, and they’re asking for personal information or money, do not respond,” said Patti Poss, Senior Attorney at the Federal Trade Commission.
The Chinese consulate in New York has posted numerous alerts on its website and advises people to call the FTC to file complaints.
Poss said those who have lost money in the scam may have some recourse.
“If you have had a fraudulent charge on your credit card company, you do have certain rights – and same with your debit card. So, you need to contact your bank to try to get your money back. And if it’s fraud, you need to tell them its fraud because they should be giving you a refund,” said Poss.
And what should people who are getting the calls on a daily basis but not interacting with them do?
“As soon you hear it’s speaking in Mandarin, claiming to be official from the consulate, then you know to hang up,” said Chen.