Suspects caught for blackmailing companies with fake news
Four suspects have been caught for allegedly blackmailing companies and individuals by fabricating news about them, Shanghai police said on Thursday.
The gang has been running 41 websites to help with their illegal activities for a few years, and made over 1 million yuan (US$150,000) in the past 12 months, police said.
Police started their investigation in December last year when Shanghai Pubin Children’s Hospital in the Pudong New Area filed a report.
A man surnamed Luo, who is a manager at the hospital, said they found some fake news about the hospital on four different websites which reported that the hospital had defrauded its patients.
“We tried to demand the websites delete the fake news through legal avenues, but we found that the websites were not registered at all and the name of the company running them that is shown on the webpage is not valid,” Luo said.
He said they managed to get into contact with the people behind the websites and were then blackmailed. Since the hospital refused to pay the money, the fake news appeared on dozens of other websites, and they were forced to turn to police.
All of the illegal websites were created and run by a gang led by a 26-year-old man, surnamed Guan, and his wife, a 26-year-old woman surnamed Li, who were based in Xiaogan city, Hubei Province, police said.
The suspects allegedly targeted companies and individuals about which there were negative claims on the Internet and fabricated news about them. They used some software to mass produce and publish the fake news and to make the stories appear on the first pages of search results about the victims, police said.
They charged a few hundred to tens of thousands of yuan to remove the fake news, and companies and individuals who have fallen prey to the scam are from over 20 provinces and cities in China, according to police.
The suspects were caught in January and have allegedly confessed about their blackmailing activities.
Three of them are under detention and one was released on bail.