A teacher in China was cheated out of 4 million yuan (US$555,000) and continued to believe the con artist responsible for the fraud would marry her despite police trying to dissuade her 12 times.
Over a period of four months last year, the 38-year-old woman from Shanghai, surnamed Yuan, invested the staggering amount she had borrowed from the bank by using her flat as collateral, into a bitcoin project her “boyfriend” promised would make her a fortune.
Shanghai police reportedly discovered the crime after “unusual activity” was noticed in her bank account.
They tried to persuade her to stop transferring funds, but the obsessed woman continued to allow herself to be scammed.
Video footage recorded from cameras worn by police when they spoke to her, showed Yuan repeatedly denying and lying about her bank transfers.
On one occasion, she denied she had transferred 640,000 yuan (US$89,000) despite the bank reporting the transaction to the police.
On another occasion, she lied to officers about the reason she made the transfers, saying she was buying discounted luxury handbags from the man.
On January 9, during her ninth conversation with the police, Yuan accused officers of pushing her too hard: “The life pressure you gave me is bigger than that of being scammed,” she said.
She was defiant when the police said “most people we have talked to will come to us crying in the end”, responding with a resolute: “I won’t.”
It was only after another woman who was cheated by the same man messaged her on a social media platform and warned her about the scam that Yuan began to suspect something was wrong.
She called the police herself this time, and had a twelfth meeting with them on March 9, but still cried in disbelief, insisting “he will marry me”.
Yuan said she met the man online, and the photos and videos he posted portrayed him as a handsome, wealthy, and kindhearted person who loved animals.
Known as the “pig-butchering scam”, or shazhupan in Chinese, it is a classic romance crime that phishes victims by faking profiles on social media.
“She has invested so much money and emotion in it that she would rather believe the police were scammers,” said a Yangpu District officer from the police anti-scam team.
China has been reinforcing its crackdown on online frauds in recent years.
Measures taken include promoting an official anti-fraud app that could detect and block suspicious calls and messages, and passing a new Anti-Telecom and Online Fraud Law last year.