Most scammers are not exactly known for subtlety when sending out their fairly naked attempts to get you to fork over your hard-earned money to them. The most hilarious ones always involve some Nigerian who apparently stopped studying English at about the 5th Grade level and wants you to send over a bunch of account details so that he can deposit an obscene amount of money to you from some oddball discovery or windfall profit of some kind.
Those scams are funny, because they are so transparently ridiculous. And the Nigerians aren’t the only ones involved in such things. Of late, the Arabs and Indians have gotten involved too, and their barely comprehensible emails are great fun to observe.
But then the Chinese decided to weigh in and get a piece of the action with the “China Registry Scam“, which is impressive in terms of its relative sophistication and its sheer brazenness, not to mention its longevity. It has been happening since at least 2010, and continues to get more elaborate and silly by the year.
So imagine my surprise, and then amusement, when I saw an email like this pop up across multiple websites that I own (yes, I actually have more than one):
If you respond to them, telling them to eff off, you’ll get a follow-up email that looks something like this:
To whom it concerns,
We will register the China domain names “[your domain].cn” “[your domain].com.cn” “[your domain].net.cn” “[your domain].org.cn” and internet keyword “[your domain]” and have submitted our application. We are waiting for Mr. [Corporate Flack]’s approval. These CN domains and internet keyword are very important for us to promote our business in China. Although Mr. [Corporate Flack] advised us to change another name, we will persist in this name.
Regardless of whether you tell them to eff off or not, the Corporate Flack bot will then send you a follow-up email asking for money:
Based on your company having no relationship with them, we have already suggested that they should choose another name to avoid this conflict, but they persist in this name as China domain names ([your domain].cn, [your domain].com.cn, [your domain].net.cn, [your domain].org.cn) and internet keyword. In our opinion, maybe they do the similar business as your company then register it to promote their company.
As is known to all, the domain name registration based on the international principle is opened to company and individual. Any company or individual have the right to register any domain name and internet keyword which are unregistered. Your company haven’t registered this name as China domain names and internet keyword, so any company is able to obtain them by registration. But in order to avoid this conflict, the trademark or original name owner have priority right to register China domain name and internet keyword during our dispute period. If your company is the original owner of this name and want to register these China domain names ([your domain].cn, [your domain].com.cn, [your domain].net.cn, [your domain].org.cn) and internet keyword to prevent anybody from using them, please inform us. We can send you an application form with price list to help your company register these China domain names and internet keyword during our dispute period if you want to register them.
I’m severely tempted to follow up with these characters and ask them exactly what kind of price list they plan on using to try to gouge me, just for shits and giggles.
There is, however, a serious point to be made out of all of this, which is that, when doing business with the Chinese, you’d damned well better count your fingers right after the handshake.
From what I have seen, the Chinese are a low-trust, high-performance, very insular culture that will absolutely not hesitate to screw you over if it works to their advantage. If you are not one of them, then you are simply someone that they can deal with on their own terms, and be exploited if they don’t like you.
That is not to say that the Chinese, in and of themselves, are bad people. Far from it. In my experience, Chinese people can be very pleasant to interact with, and are very hard-working, capable, no-nonsense types who just want to do a good job and be rewarded for it.
However, their attitudes toward things like “letter of the law” and “playing by the rules” is… elastic, to put it as charitably as possible. That comes directly from their culture, and especially from the ravages that this same culture has endured for the past 70 years under Communist rule. Whatever sense of a “rules-based order” that they might have had once upon a time, has gone straight out the window from living under a system where the rules are whatever the ruling authorities say they are, and which change on a dime.
This, incidentally, is why historians will look back after the complete collapse of the Pax Americana with wonder and horror at how quickly the USA transformed into the Empire of Lies, and destroyed itself by creating its own made-up rules that it violated repeatedly. For, as bad as life under the USSA is, can we be under any illusions that life under Chinese hegemony would be better?
It will not be. The Chinese are far more nationalistic, xenophobic, imperialistic, and self-centred than Americans ever were.
Actually, that is their great source of strength – they cannot be intimidated by being called racist. Indeed, if you ever call a Chinaman racist to his face, he will not react the way that a White Westerner will. Instead of horror and contrition and grovelling debasement, you will get annoyance or amusement, combined with a complete lack of respect for you and your opinion.
So, eventually, I think we are going to see a lot more such scams emerge from China – except, by that point, they won’t be scams, they will be actual threats, with teeth. And Westerners will have only themselves to blame for letting things get to that point.