As home to some of the largest catfish in the world (up to 10 feet long and weighing over 650 pounds!) it only makes sense that in China, catfishing would be an industrial operation.
Last week hundreds of Chinese police broke up three rings of social media scammers based in the city of Hangzhou, which together employed 149 people bilking men out of millions of dollars with bogus romantic profiles.
Each employee maintained eight or more fake profiles for attractive young women on the Chinese social media site WeChat, according to the South China Morning Post, which they used to befriend and seduce thousands of relatively affluent men, most in theirs 40s or 50s.
To complete the con, female employees would also leave voicemails for the men, fleshing out their personas and reinforcing demands for money.
They could also tap into a huge library of videos and photos, many of them stolen from legitimate users, in order to keep the conversations going.
According to Chinese police, one of the companies was posting taking in daily profits of $17,400 or more, or up to $144,000 per week.
The scammers targeted men based on likely indicators of wealth, and weren’t too sentimental about breaking things off at the first hint of poverty.
On that note, one scammer told police: “If he sends a picture of him welding, we know it’s time to say goodbye. If what he sends is a picture of him resting his feet on an office desk, sipping tea and playing with his mobile phone, then we would talk to him seriously because he clearly has money. It wouldn’t be a problem for him to send us some tens of thousands of yuan [$1,500 or more].”Guys, here’s a protip: if a beautiful young woman whom you’ve never met wants to send you hot pix online, run the other way – because it might actually be a 45-year-old Chinese man, chain-smoking and listening to K-Pop in a converted warehouse in Shanghai. Just sayin’.