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08 Sep 2017
Chinese business scams surface in the Netherlands

Dutch businesses have become the latest targets of a new type of Chinese scammers. These conmen promise them the world, but the Dutch companies end up with much less than they had bargained for.

The Chinese scammers seem to be particularly interested in companies which are active in the tourism sector. These include organisations that provide courses or offer trips lasting several days. They are approached by what looks like a major Chinese company. It says it wants to organise a trip to the Netherlands for a few hundred staff. The deal will involve several hundreds of thousands of euros. Of course, this is a chance that every Dutch tour operator will welcome.

The Chinese do all they can to win the trust of their Dutch target. They pretend to be a serious company;  they start negotiations about the price and are happy to share all the details of their travel plans. What’s more, everything is accurately recorded in a professional looking contract.

Two versions
The reports received by Fraudhelpdesk diverge from this point. Sometimes, the Dutch companies have to pay all kinds of costs. And some comply, simply because they are afraid to miss the big assignment. In another version of the scam, the company is invited to come over to China to sign the deal. The destination is often the city of Kunming. The Dutch entrepreneurs receive VIP treatment and are invited to expensive hotels and restaurants. Then, it becomes clear that the foreign guests will have to pay all the costs for their stay themselves. Sometimes, they are also required to pay kickbacks, to ensure cooperation and approval on the part of the Chinese government. Also, all kinds of legal fees may suddenly emerge. Some Dutch companies are even willing to pay all this. Often, though, they pull out of the deal with great disappointment, if the demands of the Chinese simply become too high for them.

Advance-fee scam
The trick is yet another version of advance-fee fraud, a form of scam widely used by West African conmen. In this kind of fraud, the scammers promise once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, such as a lottery prize or a huge inheritance. This type of scam may also involve a new lover (dating fraud) or, as in this case, the prospect of an attractive business deal. To be able to claim what has been promised, victims must first pay some money upfront. Of course, they will never get what has been promised.

International scam
The number of reports to Fraudhelpdesk about this scam has been relatively limited so far. But it could well grow into a much wider phenomenon. In other countries, the scam has been known for a long time and has cost an unknown number of companies quite a lot of money.

Image source: Philippe Semanaz/, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.