No cash? Just scan my phone, says robber in China – China’s latest society and culture news


“Mobile payment really changes our lives — in every aspect.”

“This man is too stupid to be a robber.”

From Weibo (in Chinese)

As the New York Times puts it (paywall), “in urban China, cash is rapidly becoming obsolete.” Mobile payments are so popular that even beggars use QR codes to solicit donations from mobile phone users. Now even muggers are using mobile phones to steal money in the street. A news program (in Chinese) on Zhejiang satellite TV recently covered a robbery in the city of Ningbo, where a criminal forced a woman to send him money on WeChat by scanning his QR code.

The crime happened at midnight on November 1. The victim was walking through an alley when a man armed with a knife stopped her and asked her to surrender all the cash that she had. After taking 300 yuan ($45) from the woman’s wallet, the robber, apparently unhappy with the small amount of cash, forced the woman to show him how much she had in her WeChat Wallet, a mobile payment service that allows users to easily transfer money by scanning a QR code. The robber then asked the woman to scan his QR code and demanded another 450 yuan ($67) from her WeChat digital payment account.

The criminal was smart enough to wear a mask during the robbery, but the money transfer record on the victim’s smartphone quickly gave away all the information about the robber because setting up a WeChat Wallet account requires real-name registration. He was arrested by the local police.


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Jiayun Feng

Jiayun is a Chinese native and was born in Shanghai, where she spent her first 20 years and earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism at Fudan University. Interested in writing for a global audience, she attended the NYU Graduate School of Journalism for its Global & Joint Program Studies, which allows her to pursue a journalistic career along with her interest in international relations. She has previously interned for Sixth Tone and Shanghai Daily.