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Alibaba “punished” merchants for selling fake university admission letters on Taobao

Informal services thrive easily on Taobao thanks to its large userbase and on-site messaging function.

Alibaba (NYSE:BABA) on Thursday said merchants selling forged university admission letters on its online marketplace Taobao were “punished and reported to the authorities in charge” via its official Weibo account “Ali Security,” shortly after local media outlet the Paper exposed that faking document services are rampant on the platform.

One could easily find many “customizable university admission services” items on Taobao, China’s largest e-commerce site with over 874 million monthly active users, by simply inputting the keyword “admission letter,” the publication said.

A merchant quoted in the article claimed that the store would customize the letters of dozens of colleges and universities at a price between RMB 200 (USD 28.96) and RMB 660, depending on the complexity of customers’ requirements. Buyers could get the final products in about one week.

When the results of Gaokao, the national university entrance examination in China, were released recently, news of a Guangdong high school graduate faking the admission letter of the prestigious Tsinghua University made the rounds and prompted the Paper to have a closer look.

“The faked will eventually die in the light,” wrote Alibaba in the Weibo post, encouraging users to report this kind of behavior. “Ali Security promises to punish any cases spotted,” it said.

The keyword “admission letter” is now returning “no related goods found,” but when searching for “certificate,” some customizable services are still available, KrASIA found.

COVID-19 boosts earnings

Thanks to its large userbase and on-site messaging function, informal services thrive easily on Taobao. They range from home cleaning, human alarm clock services, kindergarten registration, to fake documents. As long as there is demand, there will be someone to offer it.

On Thursday, Alibaba reported total revenues of RMB 153.75 billion (USD 21.76 billion) for the second quarter of the year, an increase of 34% year-on-year, that exceeded market expectations. The e-commerce giant said that it saw robust growth and a surge in online spending during the COVID-19 pandemic.