Police in Hong Kong and Malaysia have smashed an online dating scam gang suspected of cheating victims out of about HK$30 million (US$3.85 million).

The victims included 48 Hong Kong women aged from 28 to 58 and a 77-year-old retired local man, Oriental Daily reported.

One of the victims, a 40-year-old single local woman, was reportedly tricked out of HK$6.1 million.

Malaysian police arrested a 30-year-old Nigerian man believed to be the gang leader, plus another man and woman from Nigeria and an Indian woman. The latter three were aged from 29 to 38.

Gang members pretended to be rich white men and used good English when targeting doctors, bankers, accountants, senior managers – people likely to be wealthy – plus housewives via social media outlets, acting chief inspector Ip Cheuk-yu said.

The fraudsters used various excuses to ask for money, such as problems with financial transfers, claims of traffic accidents and claiming that they had been detained by the authorities, Radio Television Hong Kong reported.

Meanwhile, five women and two men aged 28 and 58 were arrested for allegedly money laundering in Hong Kong. The five women were also victims of the dating scam. Officers said they used their own bank accounts for money laundering activities.