Shanghai authorities busted a fraudulent gang of “relationship saving masters” after they swindled over 7 million yuan (US$1.1 million) from more than 500 people across China.
On a Weibo post on Tuesday, the police said that the group advertised that they would help heartbroken people win back their former lover.
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These “love experts” primarily target men between the ages of 20 and 30, according to a report by The Paper, a digital media company from Shanghai.
The charges for “relationship saving” ranged from 2,880 yuan (US$370) to 12,800 yuan (US$1,600).
The youngest victim was 17 and, in the worst case, someone paid 120,000 yuan (US$15,400) for nothing.
The case landed on the police radar after they received a tip-off from a man who paid 34,000 yuan (US$4,400) in an attempt to win back his ex, only to learn she had married someone else while the company tried to “win her back”.
Because the victim was eager to have his former lover back, the firm then proposed that they could track her whereabouts, which would cost him another 15,000 yuan.
Gu Feng, a police officer
The disappointed man, whose name was not identified, had turned to the company after his ex blocked him online and cut off contact in July 2020.
Gu Feng, an official from the Jinshan police bureau who was in charge of the case, said: “He found the so-called ‘relationship counselling firm’ online and paid them to help him win back his ex-girlfriend.”
He paid 18,000 yuan (US$2,300) after being told by the firm that they could help him retrieve the online chat history of the woman he was chasing. But, Gu said, there was no progress after the payment.
“Because the victim was eager to have his former lover back, the firm then proposed that they could track her whereabouts, which would cost him another 15,000 yuan (US$1,900),” said Gu.
He only realised it was a scam and called the police after getting no results from the company as of April.
A police probe later found that the firm never managed to contact the woman and his “counsellor” was not qualified for psychological counselling.
The gang, led by a man surnamed Xiao, was busted in Shandong province in early June, police said.
The group had hidden behind the facade of multiple education consulting companies registered in the province. To avoid getting caught, they would open a new company, quickly close it and delete all group chats before registering as a new company.
Relationship counselling is a burgeoning market in China, including companies that advertise services to help lovers reunite with their exes.
But the sector is largely unregulated, and the standards vary wildly. There is no industry federation or national tests to qualify as a relationship counsellor.
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