Police untangle Internet romance scammers' webs of deceit

The gang allegedly defrauded victims of over 50,000 yuan in three months by operating the scam on WeChat.
Pudong police

The scam profile of a "village teacher"

Pudong police

The scammers' office in Changsha city, Hunan Province, where they operated their scams

Twenty-eight suspects of a gang who orchestrated Internet romance schemes by pretending to be village teachers have been arrested, Shanghai police said on Tuesday.

The victims, the exact number of whom is yet to be determined, allegedly lost over 50,000 yuan (US$7,380) to the gang.

Police in the Pudong New Area started their investigation late last year when a man, surnamed Chen, came to them on December 7 and claimed that he lost 13,460 yuan to an Internet scammer.

Chen was added as a friend on WeChat six days before by someone who claimed to be a female teacher in a village in Hainan Province. The “teacher” asked if Chen was a parent of one of her students, and although Chen gave a negative answer, the two chatted on and developed an Internet romance.

Chen, who is about 30 years old and runs a barber shop in Hangtou Town, was convinced that he was in love with the woman after the two talked on the phone.

Before Chen realized that it was a scam, he transferred money "out of love" to the scammer, who quickly went out of touch afterwards, police said.

Police soon located the gang in Changsha City, Hunan Province, and rounded up the suspects last month.

Huang Shenxing, the police officer in charge of the case, said each member of the gang had 600 to 700 contacts who were victims on their scam WeChat accounts at the time the gang was raided.

Chen Huizhi / SHINE

On the scam WeChat account on the phone of one of the suspects, he marks his potential victims according to their locations and jobs. 

“The gang operated the scam from October last year and changed their storybook every three to four weeks,” he said. “The pictures in the scam accounts with which they hooked the victims were mostly downloaded from the Internet.”

About 25 percent of the suspects were women whose major role was to talk to the victims on the phone to convince them of the “relationship,” Huang said.

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