A “US general” has reportedly wangled some 1.2 million yuan (US$173,000) out of his infatuated lover, a 51-year-old woman living in Shanghai, in one of the city’s largest love scams in years.

The victim became acquainted with the swindler on a popular Chinese dating platform while looking for a whirlwind romance in July. But she ended up remitting a huge amount of money within just a few months to several “United Nations bank accounts” provided by her supposed US Army general boyfriend she never had the chance to meet in person.

Local papers reported that she contacted the police after lending almost all of her savings to the scammer. Police then helped stop the remittances and eventually recovered about 1 million yuan.

The deceiver had claimed to be serving in the US Army and that he was looking for a Chinese wife to spend his life with after retirement.

The victim soon became besotted with the “US general” as the pair talked on WeChat, relying on the app’s instant translation tool to exchange mutual affection.

Before long the victim received e-mails sent from a bogus United Nations domain, which asked for payments to cover the transport of the general to China, after he was “injured on the battlefield on a UN peacekeeping mission,” as well as the cost of UN rescue teams “after his fighter jet was shot down.”

The victim said the scammer vowed that he would return the money.

Police investigators said the bank accounts supposedly belonging to the UN were in fact mostly registered in southern China’s Guangdong province.

Scams on the rise

Shanghai police said they had intercepted some 195 million yuan in their operations busting telecom and Internet fraud syndicates in the first nine months of the year, and the number of suspects they nabbed had doubled over the same period of 2017.

On a daily basis, a special police squad had detected an average of around 1,500 cases involving fraudulent attempts mainly targeting students, single persons and the elderly.

One tactic used by the squad is to send text messages to potential victims to remind them to stay vigilant and verify the true identity of the other party before making any remittance.

Since the scammers are usually not based in Shanghai, police said they had stepped up cooperation with their counterparts in other provinces.

In August, a 66-year-old Hong Kong businesswoman who ran a property investment company became the biggest victim of an online scam in the city’s history.

She lost a total of HK$180 million (US$23 million) to a man in more than 200 transactions throughout a four-year relationship during which she had never met her boyfriend, who claimed to be an engineer in England.