Scammers pretended to be U.S. vets

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Scammers pretended to be U.S. vets

A group of men who pretended to be American diplomats and veterans to swindle Koreans of some 1.4 billion won ($1.2 million) were arrested, police announced Tuesday.

The Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency arrested a Nigerian man, five Liberians and a Korean man for allegedly carrying out the scam from August 2017 to June 2018, during which they defrauded 23 Koreans of 1.4 billion won.

Most of the victims were Korean women, police said.

The men allegedly approached the victims through social media platforms and pretended to be American diplomats or veterans who served in conflict regions, including Syria.

“They would pretend to have received hefty bonuses for serving in the conflict zones,” said a police officer.

After chatting with the women on social media and proposing that they spend the rest of their lives with them in Korea, the swindlers would ask the women to send some money for “some extra fees involved in sending their assets to Korea,” according to police.

Some of the victims were men who were promised business opportunities in return for their investments.

The suspects opened local banking accounts here to use for the scam.

Some of the money they stole from victims was used for lavish parties on cruise ships on the Han River or buying used cars in Korea and selling them at higher prices in Nigeria and other African countries. The rest of the money was transferred to Nigerian or Ghanaian bank accounts, police said.

“A lot of the Korean victims tended to be middle-aged or older women and men,” said a police officer. “Please check with your relatives and people you know, and talk to them about what you’re doing before you send a foreigner who approached you online any money.”

Police said the men arrested are part of an international network of swindlers, adding that they are tracking down their accomplices.

BY ESTHER CHUNG, SOHN GUK-HEE [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]

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