5 students fined for stealing online red envelopes

The five, who attend university in Shanghai, hacked into the WeChat system.

Five university students in Shanghai have been fined for hacking into the WeChat system and grabbing “online hongbao,” according to Changning District People’s Court.

Popular social media platform WeChat launched its WeChat hongbao, or red packet payment, service in early 2014 to “digitalize” the tradition of giving red envelopes filled with lucky money. It quickly became popular. But some people took advantage of loopholes in the system to make illegal profits.

The five students hacked into the system, changed the source code and grabbed the hongbao money, the court said. Each of them earned from 1,000 (US$155) to 2,000 yuan.

They were convicted of theft in a recent trial, the date of which wasn’t disclosed. As they had shown regret and returned the ill-gotten gains, they didn't face a jail sentence. Instead, each was fined from 1,000 to 2,000 yuan.

Since 2013, the court has heard 25 such cases and punished 26 “online thieves.” The average age of the culprits was 23.

Special Reports