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June 5, 2013

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Police detain 30 in scam using WeChat to lure 600 victims

POLICE detained 30 suspects who used the popular smartphone tool WeChat in a highly organized ring that lured more than 600 men to buy overpriced drinks and food, officials said yesterday.

The scam brought in about 800,000 yuan (US$130,435).

Criminals are increasingly making use of the cell phone app, which allows users to randomly talk with other users nearby, police said. A prostitution ring that earned 200,000 yuan using WeChat was busted in Songjiang District and 15 suspects caught on May 24.

"Many 'good-looking young women' on the app are actually men hired by criminal rings across the country trying to get your personal information and lure you into their traps," Shanghai police warned on Weibo. Users can create avatars and false descriptions of themselves to lure victims.

In the bust announced yesterday, the ring used a variation on the "tea scam'' in which visitors are invited to a tea house which charges excessive prices.

The ring was headed by the operator of a bar on Anlong Road near Xianxia Road in Changning District. The bar was not named.

On the next level were professional chatters who used the app late at night to find victims, pretending to be "bored and lonely" young women.

They worked with five groups, each composed of three to five young women. The women would use WeChat's voice function to call the victims contacted by the chatter and guide them to the bar.

The ring also created a trick to judge which victims were likely to be the most profitable.

In the trick, one of the ring members would sell toy bears for 150 yuan at the entrance of the bar.

The young women would ask the victims to buy them one.

If the victim would not buy it, the ring would ask the woman to get rid of him and find a richer target.

If he bought the bear without hesitation, the bar would charge him from several hundred yuan to 15,000 yuan for a drink, police said.

Officers said only 20 of the hoodwinked victims called police.


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