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Sexy bots lure lonely men into online dating scams

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Guangzhou Daily reports (in Chinese) that the police in Guangdong Province have arrested more than 600 suspects across 13 provinces for running scams on dating apps.

The 21 accused companies operated with the same goal of fleecing users out of their money, but their methods varied, from fraudulently charging for pornographic videos that didn’t exist to using erotic chatbots to solicit virtual gifts.

One company first put sexually suggestive advertisements on a range of websites to generate sign-ups to a platform where users would be greeted by a number of chatbots with female profile pictures. The scammers would hook victims in through flirtatious conversations, and then request 200 yuan ($30) to become premium users. According to the article, these sexy chatbots were also programmed to ask for virtual gifts from the victims. The most expensive gift on the platform could cost up to 999 yuan ($153).

Since August 2017, when the police launched the investigation, one company with 127 such robots has generated a total of over 340 million yuan ($52 million) from hundreds of thousands of victims. One user was fooled into paying more than 10,000 yuan ($1,500) within a month just to talk with bots. The rapid growth of the company even prompted it to create male bots designed to hit on female users.

In an entirely different type of romance scam, Shanghaiist reports that a woman in Zhejiang Province discovered that her “boyfriend,” whom she’d lived together with for half a year and on whom she’d spent 300,000 yuan ($46,000), was a woman.


Jiayun Feng

Jiayun was born in Shanghai, where she spent her first 20 years and earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism at Fudan University. Interested in writing for a global audience, she attended the NYU Graduate School of Journalism for its Global & Joint Program Studies, which allowed her to pursue a journalism career along with her interest in international relations. She has previously interned for Sixth Tone and Shanghai Daily.