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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

A man made millions by faking viewer counts in China

A man identified only as Wang orchestrated a scheme involving thousands of smartphones to artificially boost live-streaming viewer numbers.

In the ever-evolving landscape of online deception, a new scam has emerged in China that capitalizes on the allure of inflated viewer counts. A man identified only as Wang orchestrated a scheme involving thousands of smartphones to artificially boost live-streaming viewer numbers, raking in a staggering 3 million yuan in just a few months.

Rise of Wang’s Scam

Wang’s journey into the world of fraudulent online engagement began in late 2022 when he stumbled upon the practice known as “brushing.” This deceptive tactic involves falsifying real-time activities, such as viewer counts and interactions, to create the illusion of popularity and attract genuine engagement. Armed with this knowledge, Wang devised a strategy to exploit the burgeoning live-streaming industry in China’s Zhejiang province, a hotbed of online activity.

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Modus Operandi

To execute his nefarious scheme, Wang embarked on a shopping spree, purchasing a staggering 4,600 smartphones equipped with specialized software. With the aid of cloud-based technology, Wang gained the ability to remotely control these devices with just a few clicks from his computer. Additionally, he invested in VPN services and network equipment to ensure seamless operation. Through this arsenal of tools, Wang orchestrated a synchronized barrage of fake views and interactions, effectively inflating the viewer counts of targeted live-streams.

Exploiting Loopholes

Wang’s success was not without its challenges, as he navigated through loopholes in live-streaming platforms’ account management systems. Despite occasional setbacks, such as the censorship of fake accounts, Wang persevered by swiftly recovering compromised profiles through a streamlined re-registration process. His clientele extended beyond obscure corners of the internet, with popular platforms like TikTok serving as fertile ground for his services.

The Crackdown

However, Wang’s illicit empire eventually crumbled under the weight of scrutiny from authorities. In a rare move, officials in Zhejiang province took decisive action, apprehending Wang and levying a fine of 50,000 yuan ($7,000) alongside a 15-month prison sentence for the “crime of illegal business operations.” This marked a significant blow to the underbelly of online fraud in China, sending a stern warning to others tempted by similar ventures.

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Beyond Wang’s individual misdeeds, his case sheds light on broader issues of online integrity and market manipulation. The prevalence of brushing scams not only undermines consumer trust but also distorts the competitive landscape, disadvantaging honest businesses. As authorities continue to crack down on such illicit activities, there is a pressing need for robust regulatory measures and technological safeguards to safeguard the integrity of online platforms.