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Chinese Online Scams Using Tachilek Base to Target International Victims

မဲခေါင် 13 Sep - 2023
At the end of 2020, Lynn, a Cambodian, rushed to help her friend, Long Fei, she thought was being held illegally in detention in Tachilek, Myanmar.

Mekong၊ September 13

At the end of 2020, Lynn, a Cambodian, rushed to help her friend, Long Fei, she thought was being held illegally in detention in Tachilek, Myanmar.

A concerned Lynn, contacted a Tachileik resident, via social media, to request assistance in reporting the incident to local police.

Following up the request for help, on the evening of November 5, 2020, Tachileik police raided the eighth floor of a nine-story hotel where Lynn’s friend Long Fei was believed to be held – Long Fei wasn’t there.

Lynn explained Long Fei had sent his GPS locations to her via We Chat to show his location in Tachileik.

Mekong News Agency, investigated the GPS location given to Lynn and found the map showed a location on Bogyoke Road in Tachileik, not a nine-story hotel as Long Fei had claimed.

It began to dawn on Lynn that she had been lied to. Long Fei was not who he said he was. He was a member or employee of a Chinese online scammer gang intent on defrauding her of her savings.

According to local sources, there are as many as 10 Chinese gangs in Tachileik running similar scams to the one that defrauded Lynn. All of them are run by Chinese people and are operating illegal activities and running online scams, including money laundering and fraud.

A businessman (who spoke to Mekong News on the condition of anomity) close to the Tachilek Chinese community said people he frequently meets in Tachileik‘s KTVs (explain what KTVs are) include members of the Chinese online scammer gangs.

“ I was surprised when I learned that these scammers are for real,” the businessman said.

Long Fei, who defrauded Lynn may be just a small cog in the larger mechanism of the Chinese online scammer gangs, but he managed to defraud Lynn of her life savings.

“ I lost 100,000 dollars,” said Lynn when she told her story to Mekong News.

Lynn’s problems started soon after breaking up an eight-year relationship with her boyfriend. Lynn started using a Chinese social network called Soul to meet new people, before switching to Facebook where she met Long Fei.

Once they became friends on Facebook, Long Fe began to contact Lynn via the Line app so he could continue meeting her online.

As the friendship built, Long Fe persuaded Lynn to buy cryptocurrency (online money) and she deposited her first 500 USD.

At first Lynn made a small profit, but it didn’t last long. Long Fei persuaded her to keep going to try to recover her losses. This continued until Lynn had lost over 100,000 USD.

“ It’s like gambling. Sometimes you win, and then you don’t. Their website also changes frequently, ” added Lynn.

Lynn said her money was transferred through an app called “ Huobi Global: Buy BTC., NFTs & Meta” .

After losing 100,000 USD, Lynn decided to quit as she didn’t have much money left, but Long Fei wanted more and pressure her to take out loans for more money and to invite her friends to invest.

“ [Luckily] my friends are not naïve like me.” Lynn said.

According to international news reports, Chinese online scammers are not only operating in Southeast Asia, they are also targetting mainland China and the United States – Chinese Online scam victims are now worldwide.

According to Huanqia News, in October 2021, over 440,000 USD were defrauded from immigrant Chinese women in the United States through a scam in which victims are persuaded to invest in Online money – cryptocurrency.

Htin Aung (not his real name) spent about a month working for a Chinese Gang and explained the scams is not only through investing, but also through the use of porn, sexual photos and videos and also using online dating apps .

Htin Aung, 20, and of Shan-Burmese descent, said he accidentally worked for one of the Chinese Online Scammer Gangs.

Htin Aung said the Gangs recruited youths who could speak, Chinese, Thai and English to systematically target victims and scam them.

“ We were told to scam in every possible way, and they provided [us with] sexy pictures and videos in the computers. A girl had to answer when it required phone calls. We had to take over time if we couldn’t find anyone to scam.”

After Lynn quit, Long Fei tried other ways to get more money out of her.

Long Fei told Lynn that he needed help to get 30,000 USD for his monthly quota as he is required to scam 50,000 USD a month. If he can’t make the set amount, he will be punished, and that he had by accident working for a Chinese Online Scammers Gangs based in Tachileik.

Since Lynn lost over 100,000 USD, she said she couldn’t help Long Fei with the amount of money he asked for. Lynn said she believed him and tried to save Long Fei from the Tachileik based Scammer Gang .

Again Long Fei wasn’t being truthful as it soon became clear he was not at the Tachileik location he gave Lynn. Lynn decided to completely cut off any contact with Long Fei.

Chinese online scammers not only scam victims online, they also exploit their staff.

Htin Aung said he was misled by online vacancy ads and expected the work he applied for came with a decent salary and a comfortable air-conditioned working environment.

“ We were recruited with the promise of 30,000 Baht a month. The job was online job and anyone who could speak English and was computer literated could work. I accepted their offer. It was only after I started working that I realized it was a scamming business.”

The salary of a worker depends directly on the scam money he can make and those who cannot scam do not get a penny. No one is allowed to leave the work compound and those who fail to scam need to take on overtime shifts to make up the losses.

Htin Aung said human rights abuses, labor rights abuses and sexual exploitation of women were common in his workplace.

“ Girls who can speak Chinese do not really need to work. The bosses keep them around and some even become their sugar babies.”

Htin Aung said an employee working for the gangs is expected to scam as much as 30,000 USD a month while working 13 hours a day for a salary of only 4000 Baht a month.

“ Those who can scam get bonuses. Some girls even cried from [work] overloads and some even vomited.”

Mekong News is lead to understand the Chinese Online Scammer Gang is located at Lwe Sa Tone Circular Road, Tachileik where Htin Aung used to work. Locations of two other Chinese Online Scammer Gangs were disclosed by Tachileik News Agency on 24th November, 2021.

Chinese online scammers have branched out from Tachileik to other parts of Eastern Shan State and in are also operating in areas controlled by Border Guard Force in Myanmar border town of Myawaddy, Karen State. The Chinese gangs and their businesses are protected by militias sponsored by the Myanmar Military.

Htin Aung said there are about 100 workers in his old workplace and there are other Chinese-speaking scamming workshops and Thai-speaking scamming workshops in the same compound – the hostels are built in the compound to keep workers on site.

Workers are not allowed to leave the compound as barber shops, groceries, night clubs and casinos are housed in the compound. The barber fees and general groceries costs are four or five times higher than outside.

After working for two months for the gang without any benefits, Htin Aung quit his job. To do so, he had to pay a 10,000 Baht ‘fee’to the gang to be allowed to leave. Htin Aung said there were around 50 guys who quit like him and all had to pay the ‘fee’ to leave.

Mekong News Agency source said Chinese bosses of the Online Scammer Gang, who scammed Lynn, were brought in by local Tachileik business people and it is alleged they are now operating at locations and in compounds owned by a “Wa”organization.

Mekong News Agency contacted U Nyi Ram, External Relation Officer of UWSA and he requested us to talk to U Sam Ping, Public Relation Officer of the Southern “Wa” for information on Tachileik related issues. Despite several attempts Mekong News Agency have been unable to contact U Sam Ping.

In Myanmar, illegal businesses like the Chinese Online Scamming Gangs in Tachilek, have grown since the coup.

Despite online scamming, gambling, labor exploitations, human rights abuses, the Myanmar authorities have continued to ignore these matters. Authorities have failed to take further despite medias stories featuring these illegal businesses and their locations.

The Chinese government has tried to crack down on these gangs when victims include Chinese citizens living in the region and in other parts of the world and in mainland China.

In July 2021, the Chinese government called for Chinese people to register if they planned to work in Myanmar through the Chinese border. The registry, includes bank accounts and assets in attempt to tackle illegal money flows.

On 29th October 2021, nine Chinese citizens who crossed the Myanmar border illegally to run online gambling, online frauds, money laundering and human trafficking were sentenced by the Hubei District Court of Mainland China.

Despite this, the Chinese government’s efforts have had little impact on the Chinese Online Scammer Gangs and they keep growing. Online vacancy ads for the gangs are still being uploaded to social media sites.

Lynn who lost more than $ 100,000 USD to the gangs advised people to take care in dealing with these gangs as the police and authorities have failed to provide effective protections and measures for crime victims.

“ Don’t trust strangers. Don’t make decisions based on your emotions. Think carefully and don’t gamble.”

Nyan Lin Htet investigated, and Kyaw Kyaw Min edited the story.

(Identities of the victims and other interviewees are altered for their protection.

(လွတ်လပ်သည့် မီဒီယာအဖြစ် ရေရှည်ရပ်တည်နိုင်ရေး သင်တို့အကူအညီလိုအပ်နေပါသည်။ ဤနေရာတွင် www.mekongnewsmm.com/donation နှိပ်၍ လှူဒါန်းနိုင်ပါသည်)

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