Winter Olympics: From fake tickets to bogus lucky draws, the 5 top scams being used to con fans

Workers produce Bing Dwen Dwen toys at a factory in Jinjiang, Fujian province.
PHOTO: Reuters

Criminals are using some Olympic-inspired ways to rip off high-spirited fans, and authorities have urged the public to “be extra cautious” as the Games continue in Beijing.

From fake copies of the highly sought-after panda mascot Bing Dwen Dwen , to selling tickets for events in stadiums that are closed to the public, thousands of yuan have been stolen from careless or naive shoppers wanting a part of the 20220 Beijing Games.

Here are some of the most common scams that are worth keeping an eye out for, especially for sports fans looking for souvenirs commemorating the quadrennial event.

Fake lucky draws

“Congratulations, you won the jackpot in our company’s Winter Olympics lottery, including a cash prize of 18,800 yuan and a laptop worth 10,000 yuan!” is among scam messages that negligent internet users can be bamboozled by.

The scammers usually ask for a deposit and postage fees for the prizes to be sent out, as victims end up paying large sums for nothing.

Non-existent companies aside, some of those messages can come from pages pretending to be official organisers, with fraudsters setting up fake lotteries for popular merchandise, such as the limited edition postage stamps and commemorative coins.

Users will have to register their information to take part, which is how their money is then stolen and devices hacked.

Donations to “athletes” in need

The Chinese people’s sympathy can too be exploited, as scammers mastermind tear-jerking stories about underprivileged athletes with an Olympic dream but no resources.

Being asked for financial support on virus-infected websites, the victim falls into the trap once they follow through with the steps to donate.

Games tickets

All tickets being sold online are fake because the coronavirus pandemic means the Olympics is taking place in a “closed loop”, and events are not open to the public.

Spectators are invited on an individual basis by Chinese authorities and Games organisers, but their tickets cannot be resold.

This approach is part of the collective effort to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in the local population, as athletes and their support teams manoeuvre in a bubble isolated from the outside.

Red pockets from Olympians

“Red pockets” is a popular function on Chinese messaging app WeChat, which allows users to send small amounts of money to friends. Sometimes, public figures also send red pockets to fans as a token of appreciation. They’re widely given out during the Lunar New Year, which began at the start of the month.

Scammers pretending to be benevolent givers ask fans to forward the payment link to other users to receive their offering.

But the money never arrives, and victims are flooded with advertising and subjected to information theft.

Counterfeit souvenirs

There is a reason many have to line up overnight to purchase the Bing Dwen Dwen plush toy – they are in demand and limited in quantity.

According to fans outside the official store in Beijing, each person can only purchase one Bing Dwen Dwen, and only 300 are sold a day.

If you see them being resold for low prices and large amounts, without any effort from the buyer’s end, it is probably not the real thing.

How to avoid being scammed?

Bear in mind that, when asked to pay deposits or handling fees, you are likely to be in the start of a scam, because organisers usually cover all costs of a lucky draw.

A man sets up a fence around a Beijing 2022 installation near the closed loop.
PHOTO: Reuters

Make sure to rely on the Winter Olympics’ official website or official authorities for information on such activities, and refrain from clicking on links that lead to unknown or unverified websites, where you are more likely to lose than gain.

Authorities are urging people not to rush to sign up for any special offers, and to be “extra cautious; don’t fall into the trap”.

This article was first published in South China Morning Post.