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Regulation needed to stamp out courier crime

Updated: 2013-08-06 00:25
By CAO YIN ( China Daily)

Rise in thefts, poor protection of customer information raise concerns

Judicial officers have called on parcel courier companies to establish rules to protect the personal information of their customers and place restrictions on who can work as a courier.

The calls are aimed at reducing crime in the industry, which has seen a rise in thefts of goods and information over the past three years. Concern has also been voiced at the rise in cases of criminals gaining access to people's homes while disguised as parcel couriers.

One of the more shocking cases is that of Zhang Kunpeng, who was convicted in March of killing a woman during a burglary in which he disguised himself as an express parcel courier. Beijing No 2 Intermediate People's Court sentenced him to death and ordered him to pay 35,000 yuan ($5,700) in compensation to the victim's family.

The victim, Fu Li, a 30-year-old singer, had been fond of online shopping, while Zhang had delivered packages to her home several times during his previous employment as a parcel courier. Zhang noticed that she was always alone when he made deliveries and remembered her address, the court heard.

The convict visited Fu's home in Beijing's Chaoyang district on July 30, 2012, posing as a courier on a delivery errand. He robbed her at knifepoint, taking 1,600 yuan. He then attempted to sexually assault her and strangled her to death when she screamed, according to the prosecution case.

Similar cases have been common in recent years, said Zhou Zhijun, prosecutor for the capital's Dongcheng district, who added that some express courier companies have major loopholes in the protection of customer information.

"Such tragedies do not only happened in Beijing, but also other provinces," he said. "Yet there's no mandatory rule requiring express delivery companies to take measures to protect customers' privacy."

In February, a man identified only as Wang was prosecuted in Dongcheng district for stealing seven packages and demanding 2,265 yuan from the customers awaiting the deliveries. He had worked for an express courier company before and only stole those packages that needed cash on delivery, prosecutor Zhou said.

A lack of proper information security allowed him to access information on customers and their deliveries.

"Most residents are not aware of the need to confirm the identities of delivery men, and many don't thoroughly tear bills (containing personal details) into pieces, which also provides opportunities for those with bad intentions to conduct illegal activities," he said.

There has also been an increase in cases of couriers stealing packages in recent years, Beijing prosecutors say.

Since 2010, authorities in Dongcheng have handled 16 cases involving express couriers, of which 30 percent involved delivery staff suspected of stealing packages.

Chaoyang District People's Procuratorate has also tackled more than 20 cases related to delivery men in the past three years, most of them involving parcel thefts.

A suspect identified as Zhang was recently convicted in Dongcheng of stealing more than 40 packages, including a smartphone, a necklace and a laptop, with a total value of over 30,000 yuan, between February and April. "He knew which packages were valuable by using a scanner at work," Zhao said.

Rules and safeguards

According to Beijing's municipal government, a regulation asking express companies to delete client information on a regular basis was put out for public consultation in March. However, Zhao said that passing government regulations may take some time, so authorities are focusing initially on establishing rules with the industry so that courier companies can be self-regulating in the first instance.

A delivery man with SF Express who gave only his surname, Ge, said his company requires delivery workers to hand in delivery receipts every day, but he has no idea what happens to the receipts or the information on them.

Zhou Ye, head of the information office of YTO Express, said client information is stored for about six months for analysis so that the company can keep in touch with them. However, he said that his company has its own methods of ensuring that customer information is not misused.

"We've recorded our customers' information on an e-database, avoiding delivery men selling it for money and aiming to improve our work efficiency," Zhou Ye said.

"We provide delivery men with handheld terminals to record whether products have been successfully delivered or not, which can prevent someone pretending to be one of our workers from stealing deliveries and also supervise our employees' delivery process," he said.

However, Wang Tingting, a prosecutor in Chaoyang district, said the express courier industry still has major loopholes in its security provisions.

"The number of packages handled by each company is huge and the security procedures during storage are substandard," she said. "This provides opportunities for delivery men to do bad things and makes detection difficult."

Prosecutors said express companies should boost their security systems during parcel processing, making use of technologies such as closed-circuit TV cameras, which might reduce the numbers of thefts.

But it is not only the companies that need to work harder to stamp out the problem.

Chen Linhua, secretary-general of Shanghai Express Trade Association, said customers "should also enhance awareness and destroy the delivery receipts".

Zhang Ying, 26, a civil servant from Wuxi, Jiangsu province, who is interested in online shopping, said she always uses her workplace address and even writes a fake name on bills, but she is still worried about slack security in courier delivery systems.

"A strange man called me to sell insurance, and he called me by the fake name I had used with a delivery man," she said. "It must be the express company that sold my information."

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