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Chinese Loan Sharks Are Asking Young Women for Nude Selfies as Collateral for Online Loans

Loans are notoriously hard to get for Chinese college students, and some of them will agree to almost anything for some much needed funds, even providing nude photos of themselves as collateral to unscrupulous loan sharks.

The disgusting practice was brought to national attention when a victim – a university student going by the pseudonym of Li Li – desperately sought help from the police after loan sharks requested that she send them a photo of herself in the nude, holding her ID card. The online loan shark group had granted her a 500 yuan ($76) loan in February with a weekly interest rate of 30%. Unable to pay it back in time, the debt inflated beyond 10,000 yuan in a very short while, and at one point the loan sharks threaten not to renew her loan unless she also provided a nude photo of herself holding her ID, which Li reluctantly agreed to. However, after four months, her debt had inflated to 55,000 yuan, at which point she went to the police asking for help.

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During questioning, Li told officers about many other of her university colleagues who had fallen in the same trap, but were to embarrassed to speak out. This story prompted a journalistic investigation into online money lending which revealed that nude pics of young girls as collateral was common practice.  One reporter posed as a female student asking for a loan and offering nude selfies as collateral, and was approached by no less than five online lenders in just one hour.

Online lending is largely unregulated in China, which is why loan sharks can get away with requesting a 30% weekly interest rate, even though interest rates for personal loans are capped at 24% annually, newspaper The Southern Metropolis Daily reported recently. Taking nude photos as collateral is also illegal, but some such services casually admit that it is common practice, adding that the terms of the loans are agreed upon by both parties using other channels, like popular chat systems QQ and Wechat.

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Even more despicable is how Chinese online lenders than use these nude selfies as a way to pressure gullible young women into paying back huge sums of money, by threatening to send the embarrassing photos to their family and friends, or just sell it online to the highest bidder. The recent investigation showed that some loan sharks sell their clients nude selfies in online chat rooms for as little as 30 yuan, even after they have paid off their debts.

With all the attention the shady practice has been getting in the last week, many online loan services have been sending their clients’ messages that nude selfies are no longer as collateral, but many fear that it’s just a strategy to whether the storm, after which it’s right back to business as usual. Part of the problem is that many young students are so burdened with debt that they are not eligible for loans from standard companies, but they can get tens of thousands of yuan from obscure loan-sharking services.

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Sources: People’s Daily, Quartz via Shanghaiist

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