A Chinese international student was scammed over WeChat — a Chinese social media site — after giving money to a third party to pay her rent.
On Feb. 1, the student transferred Chinese money to an unknown individual through WeChat, with the understanding they would convert it to American dollars and pay her rent for the next two months, which amounted to $1300.
She later learned that the scammer attempted to pay her rent with a stolen credit card. The transaction was flagged, likely by the owner of the credit card, according to the police report.
The Oxford Police Department (OPD) has no suspects, and Lieutenant Lara Fening said OPD is not looking further into the case, primarily because they do understand or have access to WeChat.
“WeChat is just … a foreign concept to us because we don’t know what’s in it,” Fening said. “We don’t know how it works. We don’t have access to it, and so it’s sad. It’s like the story of the crime is kind of locked up behind this door of WeChat, and we can’t poke around and see what’s going on.”
This is not the first instance of its kind. Thirteen international students have reported scams through WeChat this year after paying someone on the app a discounted rate for Miami University tuition.
Fening said she thinks these instances happen more frequently but often go unreported.
Chinese students fall for these scams more often because in China people use WeChat to exchange money similar to PayPal, said Yuenan Jin Rodriguez, international student coordinator for International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS).
“For young people, it’s a very common practice using WeChat pay, so people are not super cautious about when they send people money through this platform,” Rodriguez said.
From coffee to taxi rides to utility bills, WeChat can be used to pay for most products and services in China, Rodriguez said. She added that using the platform to exchange currency or pay rent is common.
“I would not say I’m surprised that there’s fraud … because there’s really no way you can track that person down,” Rodriquez said.