People in China are sending nudes to secure loans
Millennials are all but too aware of the dangers of buying items on finance. Residing in the long shadow of the 2008 banking crash, phrases like “subprime”, “recession” and “austerity” have coloured our existence. However, while getting a credit card is still relatively easy in the west, the situation is altogether different in China.
Tighter controls prevent even remotely risky would-be customers from obtaining a line of credit. In order to cater to this cash-poor demographic, many e-commerce sites offer payment plans on curiously mundane purchases. A humble packet of Oreo cookies made headlines when it was made available on a three-year payment plan whereby customers pay the equivalent of around 40 cents a month.
But the world of Chinese microloans gets stranger still. In order to get ahold of actual money, those with a less-than-exemplary credit rating will have to go a step further - as unscrupulous lenders are asking for nudes as collateral.
While authority figures routinely preach about naked images of oneself being a needless risk, in China, it could be a necessary step towards building your future. The images work as an insurance policy for the lender so if the client doesn’t pay on time, they will threaten to send the images to friends, family or colleagues of the client. Interest may be taken in the form of more nudes or even videos. This system, which sounds like something out of a Black Mirror episode, is called “naked loan services”. But it gets worse.
If a client can’t pay, the lender can recoup their losses by demanding “flesh payments” i.e. sex work. Furthermore, in 2016, nudes from 161 women were leaked - undermining the entire process and, presumably, causing those involved untold embarrassment.
The women, who were typically between the ages of 19 and 23, all held ID cards in the images and usually borrowed the equivalent of $1,000 to $2,000 according to state media outlet China Youth Daily. A multi-ministry taskforce stated: “Amid the rapid development of cash loans - while they have played a role in meeting the normal credit needs of some groups - problems such as over-lending, repeat borrowing, improper collection, abnormally high-interest rates, and privacy violations have become prominent.”
A student from Jiangsu Province agreed to send nude photographs to secure a 120,000 yuan ($17,433) business loan, according to Beijing Youth Daily. Within four months, her debt more than doubled and she had to ask her family to borrow money in order for the images not to be published online.
The loan sharks are thought to have targeted female students who, due to what experts refer to as an “underdeveloped” financial system, often don’t have access to a student loan and therefore look to riskier alternatives.
It was reported on Saturday that Chinese authorities are cracking down on microloan companies which are exploiting young people who can’t finance their education. Many of the transactions are happening on JD Capital’s Jiedaibao website, according to state media. This mirrors what happened to Alipay. The payment app launched a chat feature and quickly turned into a “girls gone wild” platform, forcing the owners to apologise.
However, Alipay also devolved into debauchery due to its credit score system - which takes into account a number of criteria including how many friends you have on the app. “Some friends of mine added many new Alipay friends over the past two days to heighten their credit score so that they could comment on college girls,” one Weibo user said. “This shows that there are many prostitutes among college students,” another asserted, adding: “You should track down those who exposed themselves.”
Others thought it posed a great opportunity. Wang Sicong, who has over 21.4 million followers on Weibo, posted: “O2O [online to offline] prostitution is f*cking amazing.” He also made a pun with an Alipay logo saying: “pay the pimp”.
Jiedaibao’s parent company, Beijing-based venture capitalists JD Capital, stated in 2015 that they had received $275m in what marked a “record high in internet finance”. When contacted by the Guardian on the issue of naked loan services, they stated: “This kind of naked loan is actually taking advantage of the online platform to operate an illegal usurious offline business.”
Ultimately, that women are using nude images of themselves to secure loans is symptomatic of a comparatively underprivileged generation. While working for a few years before making a down payment on a house is clearly a thing of the past, it is perhaps only a matter of time until Amazon offers cookies on credit.