As a group, foreigners in China tend to be hit with their decent share of scams. While certainly not alone in their potential victimization, rare does a week go by my (Chinese-registered) phone doesn’t ring with some identity theft scam, China’s criminal element definitely have an eye out for the comparatively affluent and possibly unknowing laowai.
Case in point is a message I received from a good friend of mine in Suzhou yesterday about an experience she had:
A man and woman came to my apartment today claiming to be representatives from a bank where my landlord had applied for a loan. They said they needed to appraise the apartment as collateral against the loan. I called our agent who called the landlord and they had no knowledge of this. Unfortunately my Ayi had let them in and they had already taken some photos and left before I found out they were phony and probably casing our home for a robbery. After talking to the guards in our complex and my ayis I figured out that these people knew that I was a foreigner and knew exactly where I lived before they came into the complex.
While I’ve never experienced the above, I have certainly had a fair number of random people come to my door, flash some sort of ID and ask to see something in the apartment (gas metre, water metre, etc.). It has occurred to me that the “official” wasn’t who they said they were (or there ID says they are), as faking a uniform and a badge is on the simple side of what gets faked in China.
Other than locking windows and doors securely at night as well as getting a dog and a bat, I’m not sure what more can be done. Even renting in an upscale community (as my friend above does) means little more than you’re likely to be a bigger target. I’ve yet to meet a community security guard who doesn’t look like they could be blown over by a subtle breeze or bought off with a pack of smokes.
Stay safe friends.