What just happened? China's strict laws on how long under 18s can play online games have seen fraudsters take advantage of a 15-year-old's desperation, conning him out of $560 by promising a way to circumvent the three-hours-per-week restriction imposed by the government.

CAC, or the cyberspace administration of China, writes (via The Reg) that it has dealt with 12,000 cases of online fraud against youngsters this year. One of these incidents involved Tan Moumou, who was using some of his allotted online game time to enjoy a mobile title when someone added him as a friend on WeChat, China's instant messaging/social media/mobile payment app.

The person promised Tan that they knew a way of avoiding China's gaming rules for youths, which allow just one hour of online play, between 8 pm and 9 pm local time, on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays. The catch was that he needed to hand over some money for this information.

Tan secretly used his parent's phone to pay 3,800 yuan, around $560, to his new friend, who, needlessly say, never lived up to his promise and didn't return the cash.

The victim in another case was even younger, and the payout was higher. A 12-year-old was snared by the promise of a free game skin before the scammer convinced them they had committed an illegal offense. The punishment would be a year in jail or a $15,000 fine, but the fraudster said they'd make the whole thing disappear for $1,500. Again, the child used his parent's phone to pay the money.

Some other reported crimes where the victims were under 18 include fake lottery scams, handing over parents' payment details, and paying for PC parts that never arrive, the latter being a popular con in most of the world.

Before August last year, China allowed under 18s access to online games for one and a half hours on weekdays and three hours on holidays and weekends. This was then slashed to the current three hours per week plus one hour on holidays.

There had been rumors that the restrictions would be eased during the summer holidays when kids are off school, but Tencent Games disappointed millions recently when it confirmed this wasn't going to happen. Not surprisingly, many of the frauds reported to CAC occur during the summer.

Thanks, The Reg