Online Dating Scam Cheats Suzhou Woman out of ¥600,000

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online dating scam
Photo courtesy Yangtze Evening News

A Suzhou woman who lost ¥600,000 up to a year ago in an online dating racket has finally received some closure, with the arrest of many of those responsible.

May 2018, Xinxiang City in northern Henan Province, two large cylinders full of cash were dug up during an excavation of a private property, money that has now been traced back to an online dating racket.  A total of¥2.66 million had been stashed in the containers.

After 4 months of investigating the case, 25 people have been arrested, including a Ms. Zhang, the individual suspected of burying the money. Zhang has now admitted that she was culpable, reports the Yangtze Evening News via Sina.

Prosecutors have revealed the group’s master plan for procuring the large amount of illegal money. The “trap” tells an all to familiar story of love and trust in the online dating world.

In the latter half of 2017, a woman called An An, from Suzhou City’s Xiangcheng District, added a man on WeChat (China’s most popular messaging APP) whose online name was Moon Serenade.

The man later told An his real name was Liu Haolun and passed himself off as a “graceful and mature” real estate agent. Swooned by his interest in her as she was “no longer young”, An overlooked any warning signs; her repeated efforts to meet in person were rejected as he claimed to be away on business trips.

Roughly 2 weeks after the pair first began their relationship, the man told her of a “very profitable investment in foreign exchange”. After An declined, he offered to teach her how to make money by investing.

Yet, the man persisted, and An eventually transferred¥20,000 to him. By this point, An was referring to the man as her boyfriend, reporting later that she had indeed made returns of some ¥200,000 by investing with him, which sealed her trust.

Soon after her initial investment, the boyfriend told her that he had lost money, and asked An to pay more. Despite the warning signs, An continued to invest hundreds of thousands of yuan into an APP called Cloud Exchange International.

In April of this year, An’s boyfriend announced he was off to Nepal to “build temples” and continued to ask An for money, who handed over another ¥100,000.

An revealed that it was not until she lost contact with her “boyfriend” that she realised she had been deceived, and had lost almost¥600,000.

In a not-so bizarre twist, An was surprised to learn from Suzhou police that after they began to investigate the online dating, it was revealed that An’s “boyfriend” was in fact a 30-year-old woman, a Ms. Ma, who is trained in the art of grooming other woman on the internet.

“Before and after investing more than 600,000, I never expected that my ‘boyfriend’ was actually a 30-year-old woman”, commented An.

Police said Ma’s WeChat account revealed at least 100 other women similar to An, and that An was known as one of her “big customers”.

The investigation then turned to the aforementioned Zhang, who was Ma’s boss in the scam operation, and who had been running a team of 10 “salespeople”, all of whom had been deceiving people in just the same way An had been tricked.

Suzhou Police traced Zhang back to her hometown in Henan Province, where the hidden cash was later discovered.

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Renée Gray Beaumont
As an Australian journalist living in Nanjing for many years, Renée Gray Beaumont has a background in research, print and online publishing, taking great pleasure in discovering more about Nanjing with every article. 作为在南京居住多年的澳大利亚新闻工作者,Renee Gray Beaumont 有着调研以及印刷品和线上出版物的工作背景。她总是乐于在每篇文章里发现关于南京的内容。