SINGAPORE - Forty-three members of a fraud syndicate that tricked Singaporean men into paying for non-existent sexual services were arrested in China last month.
The syndicate was uncovered in a joint investigation by the Singapore Police Force and the criminal investigation department of China's Ministry of Public Security.
Victims in Singapore were cheated of about $1.6 million in 627 cases of credit-for-sex scams in the first half of 2015, police said.
Police investigations revealed that the culprits behind the scams operated from call centres based in China.
They deceived victims into paying money for non-existent sexual services through social media platforms.
China media reported that while the scammers posed as girls in Singapore, they were in fact operating from China.
First, they would flirt with the men on a messaging app such as WeChat, then they promised sexual services for a price and asked for the man's address.
They would ask to be paid in advance. Instead of a money transfer, they requested to be paid using Alipay, iTunes gift cards or other online payment modes.
The scammer then concocted a variety of reasons to ask for money without showing up. If the victim stopped paying, they resorted to threats.
One Singaporean victim had more than $10,000 extorted in this way, reported hangzhou.com.cn.
In December 2015, the Chinese police conducted simultaneous raids at various locations in China and detained 43 members of a syndicate responsible for such scams.
Several computers, telecommunication devices and modems were seized.
Mr David Chew, director of the Singapore Police Force Commercial Affairs Department, said: "We appreciate the support from our Chinese counterparts in this joint investigation. The close cooperation between the SPF and the Chinese Police was instrumental in crippling this transnational criminal syndicate."
"We spare no efforts to clamp down on criminals who hide behind the anonymity of the Internet to prey on victims across borders," he added.
The syndicate may also have targeted Chinese victims in Australia, said reports quoting Chinese police.