A group of suspected Internet fraudsters barely of adult age was apprehended on Tuesday for allegedly scamming as much as NT$70 million (US$2.4 million) in just two years, New Taipei City (新北市) police said.
New Taipei City Criminal Investigation Division deputy chief Lin Chia-lun (林家倫) said the group was led by Su Ching-pei (蘇慶霈), who ran a betel nut stand.
Su worked through proxy agents Chen Yung-lin (陳詠霖), Chang Kai-fung (張楷峰), Lin Yuan-chuan (林元泉), all 21 years old, and a teenager surnamed Pan (潘), who recruited other young people between the ages of 15 and 20 at cybercafes and pool halls.
Su and Chen rented a house for NT$18,000 a month in Sinjhuang District (新莊), New Taipei City, and set up four computers in the house, making it the headquarters of the fraud ring, police said.
The teenagers who joined the group were allegedly accomplices in a scam that used names that were suggestively female such as “LOVE,” “BABY” and “RUBY” in the game We Dancing Online (唯舞獨尊) to randomly chat online with otaku — a Japanese term referring to people with obsessive interests — feigning to be their female colleagues or peers.
The scammers pretended to promote software to increase the gaming points for the other player to gain personal information, which they then used to buy small amounts of IWAN game points. The scammers used the points to buy virtual treasure from the online shop in Forsaken World (神魔Online) and Demigod (暗黑世界Online) to sell to other players of those games for profit.
Police said that although the fraudsters used the oldest trick in the book by asking victims to guess who they were, they got away with the scam because they knew the otakus’ weak points.
Victims did not realize they were being scammed until they later approached the female colleagues or netizen friends the scammers were pretending to be, police said, adding that one particular gaming company received more than 1,000 complaints by netizens who were scammed.
On Tuesday, the New Taipei City Criminal Investigation Division, along with the Ninth Investigation Team of the Criminal Investigation Bureau, raided the group’s “headquarters” as well as other locations, making 16 arrests and confiscating five computers, more than 120 cellphones, account books and an electronic scamming manual.
The oldest of the scammers was 21, the police said.
This was the youngest average age for a fraud group the New Taipei City police had ever apprehended, police said.
Chen even posted a picture of himself online draped in a “-blanket” of NT$1,000 bills, police said, while Lin wrote a blog post titled “Look to the money,” saying that while money was not all-important, men could not go without it and “you’re looked down on no matter how well you mingle, how connected you are, so you need to look to the money.”
Police officers could only shake their heads in disbelief when they saw the warped values of the teenagers, a police official said.
“The Internet in the teenage subculture has become a place of negative education that society cannot ignore,” New Taipei Municipal Yong-Ping High School dean Lee Ling-hui (李玲惠) said.
Lee said that although teenagers would always have a subculture, rapid changes in society and concepts such as the all-importance of money created by a culture of over-consumption and mass media have lead to teenagers to believe that having the newest cellphones, tablet computers, watches and motorcycles would win them affirmation from their friends.