As the new semester began this week, freshmen at a college in Dengfeng, Henan province, got their first lesson－a public trial in a telecommunications fraud case.
Their attendance was arranged to help them avoid being cheated by fraudsters, while alerting them not to become one of the crooks, according to the Physical Education College of Zhengzhou University.
Eighteen defendants stood in front of the court on Sunday, 12 of whom were college students or just graduated, according to Wang Tianchao, chief judge of the Dengfeng People's Court.
They had been hired by Zhengzhou Yuanzhishen Technology Co to post false information online in order to identify fraud targets, especially women who wanted to run online shops at home. In order to gain the women's trust, the male suspects pretended to be female, communicating via QQ, an instant messaging platform.
Up to 231 people were cheated in the case, which involved 350,000 yuan (,600), Wang said.
"Many of the suspects came from poor families and wanted to reduce the economic burden on their family. But their eagerness to earn money, and lack of experience, pushed them into the fraud trap," he said. The judgment will be announced later.
Liu Yandong, an official at the Henan provincial Public Security Bureau's anti-telecommunication fraud center, said there's a trend for telecommunications fraudsters to target college students, and some college students have cheated others after being cheated themselves.
There were 19,502 telecommunications fraud cases in Henan in the first five months of this year, 18 percent of which targeted college students.
The number of frauds that relied on QQ jumped 172 percent over the same period last year, and 76.7 percent of the suspects who used QQ for fraud were between 18 and 30 years old, according to official data.
Police officers who gave lectures at colleges to alert students about telecommunications fraud were quoted by a Xinhua News Agency report saying that some students fell asleep while listening to a lecture.
The real trial was a different matter: "Hearing a court trial with 200 other freshmen is more impressive," said Zhang Hongfu, 19.
Some students said that after attending the trial, they were not as confident as before that they could not be swindled by the complex traps set by fraudsters, Xinhua reported.
Xiao Yong, a teacher at Zhengzhou University, said college students would face the issue of finding a job when they graduated, so it was meaningful to warn them to stay away from telecommunications fraud as freshmen. It also helped them increase their awareness of the law, Xiao said.