Seven online blackmailers who used negative reviews to target sellers on taobao.com, China's biggest e-commerce website, have been arrested, police said yesterday in Hangzhou, capital of Zhejiang Province.
The suspects, arrested on extortion charges, made negative comments on their online shopping experience and demanded money to change their reviews. Online sellers' business is greatly affected by comments left by customers.
It was the first time that Hangzhou-based Taobao and police launched a joint crackdown on so-called professional critics, according to local news portal www.zjol.com.cn.
Taobao sellers started complaining to the site in June, saying they were threatened with more bad ratings if they didn't send money and products to the "critics."
Hangzhou police traced the suspects to the cities of Changsha, Guilin, Chongqing, Shenzhen and Shijiazhuang. After months of work, police caught seven, including a woman, they said yesterday.
Official data show 65,000 malicious online buyers have been punished by the site and 100,000 deals rejected due to suspected fraud and other reasons. Racketeering-involved complaints on the site have dropped 90 percent since police began the crackdown, officials said. Police said more offenders are expected to be apprehended. Blackmailers can face up to three years in prison if convicted.