BATAM, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesian police said Wednesday they arrested 88 Chinese for participating in a cross-border ring of telephone fraud and online love scams, thanks to a tip from China’s Ministry of Security.
The suspects, including five women, were arrested by police officers dressed as civilians on the island of Batam, near Singapore, said Zahwani Pandra Arsyad, spokesperson for the Riau Islands police. They worked in a shophouse, a mixed-use commercial and residential building, in an industrial estate. Police believe the suspects are members of a corporation that engages in telephone fraud and Internet love scams, Arsyad said.
Most of their targets appeared to be fellow Chinese whom they contacted online and tricked into transferring money after the callers manipulated the “human emotion” of the victims, Arsyad said.
A preliminary investigation showed that the organization had been operating since the beginning of the year, catching hundreds of victims in China, but it is unclear how much money it had raised.
“We are still investigating this case, including whether there are any Indonesians among the victims,” Arsyad said, adding that none of the suspects can speak or write Indonesian. “If there are none, we will deport all of them immediately.”
Arsyad said the corporation’s members had come from China to Indonesia for three straight months since January, using tourist visas, and were committing the crimes from Indonesia after China cracked down on their networks.
He added that the Indonesian police are working closely with immigration officials and China’s Ministry of Public Security to deal with the suspects.
The US Federal Trade Commission announced in 2019 that romance scams have generated more losses than any other consumer fraud reported to the agency. She said romance scams vary, but criminals often find their victims online, through a dating site or on social media.