BATAM, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesian police said Wednesday they have arrested 88 Chinese nationals for involvement in a cross-border telephone and online romance scam syndicate after receiving a tip from China’s security ministry.
Riau Islands police spokesman Jahwani Pandra Arsyad said the suspects, including five women, were arrested on the island of Batam, next to Singapore. They were operating out of a shophouse, a building with mixed commercial and residential use in an industrial park. Police believe the suspects are members of a telephone fraud and online love scam syndicate, Arsad said.
Most of their targets appeared to be colleagues in China who were called over the Internet and tricked into transferring money after the callers manipulated the victims’ “human emotions,” Arsad said. A preliminary investigation found the gang had been operating since earlier this year, ensnaring hundreds of victims in China, but it was unclear how much money they collected.
“We are still investigating the case, including whether there are any Indonesians involved,” Arsyad said, adding that none of the suspects can speak or write Indonesian. “If there are none, we will immediately deport them all.”
Arsyad said members of the syndicate had come to Indonesia from China for three months using tourist visas since January and were committing crimes from Indonesia after China cracked down on their network.
He said 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 this in 2019 Romance-related scams It generated more losses than any other consumer fraud reported to the agency. It said romance scams vary but criminals usually find their victims online, whether on a dating site or social media.
Scammers usually create a fake profile, often creating a believable persona with other people’s photos and direct contact. They woo the victim, building affection and trust until they get a chance to ask for money. The reasons for the request may vary, but requests for money to cover travel expenses for a medical emergency or a long-awaited trip are common.
In a report on Wednesday, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said criminal gangs have forced tens of thousands of people from Southeast Asia to take part. Illegal online scamsIncluding false romantic tricks, bogus investment pitches and illegal gambling schemes.
It cited “credible sources” that at least 120,000 people in conflict-torn Myanmar and nearly 100,000 in Cambodia “may be trapped in situations where they are forced to resort to online scams.”
The report sheds new light on cybercrime scams that have become a major problem in Asia, with many workers trapped in virtual slavery and forced to participate in scams targeting people on the Internet.
Laos, the Philippines and Thailand were also cited as major destinations or transit countries for thousands of people. Criminal gangs have increasingly targeted immigrants, and some lure victims by falsely claiming they are destined for real jobs.
In 2017, Indonesia arrested 419 Chinese and Taiwanese nationals who were involved in telephone fraud and online investment scam syndicates. They were repatriated to face charges in their home country after spending two months in an Indonesian prison and being fined $770 for violating their tourist visas.
In 2019, Indonesian police arrested 85 Chinese nationals for involvement in similar cases.