Police in the southern province of Guangdong have busted huge rings of online dating scammers who posed as attractive women to defraud men into buying pricey tea and other products, Guangzhou Daily reported Friday.
Local police announced at a briefing on Thursday that they had cracked 13 gangs and apprehended 1,310 suspects. Each gang could approach up to 1,500 victims per month, as their members would seduce many men simultaneously.
“These scam gangs [succeed] because they capture the psychology of many men: When facing beautiful women, men lose their judgement, and feel too shy to refuse,” a Guangdong police officer said at the briefing.
According to the police, the gangs used models’ photographs and the People Nearby function on WeChat, China’s most popular messaging app, to lure victims into chatting. After months of building up trust, they would swindle their “boyfriends” by using fictional family tragedies as ruses to promote tea, wine, or investment in precious metals through a platform controlled by the group.
One long con involved homegrown tea. Police explained that the gangs had developed a 60-day formula for fraud: The scam artists would spend 15 days casually chatting, five days pushing the relationship into a romance, and 20 days showing the boyfriend that they had gone to take care of an ailing grandfather in their hometown, where they were also learning how to produce tea. The gang even hired models in hot pants to pose for photos and videos in southeastern China’s Yunnan province, one of the country’s well-known tea-producing regions.
The scam would reach its climax in the last 20 days, when the boyfriend would be repeatedly persuaded to buy expensive tea leaves. By the time the target realized he’d been had, he would get blocked.
According to Guangzhou Daily, most of the con artists were millennials, while others were “middle-aged uncles who liked to pick at their feet.” Some networks sold tea, while others used tobacco, alcohol, health products, or even oil paintings as their bait of choice.
Hundreds of people have been arrested for taking part in online dating scams in China. In 2017, police in eastern China’s Zhejiang province busted an operation that had used photos of beautiful women to lure victims into lotteries controlled by their ring. Another case in northeastern China’s Liaoning province in 2016 saw 500 suspects arrested.
Editor: Qian Jinghua.