Eight executives who ran several popular Japanese dating websites have been arrested after it was revealed that out of their 2.7 million members, only one of them was a woman.
The men are accused of operating multiple scam websites for more than 10 years, paying staff members to pose as women looking for love rather than attracting genuine female members.
The scam sites are believed to have enriched the men to the tune of more than £34 million since they were set up in 2004, taking advantage of millions of lonely men who wasted time and money engaging in online conversations with employees operating fake accounts.
One of the regular users of the websites spent more than £65,000 over the years in order to chat with what he wrongly believed to be women looking for love, according to Rocket News 24.
The scam the 2.7 million men fell victim too is understood to have gone far beyond just fake or fruitless versions of better known dating websites.
In fact employees were even reportedly paid to continue conversations with the men via email and mobile messaging programmes in order to trick them into believing they were having some success and should continue to pay membership fees despite never actually meeting women.
Other employees sent members unsolicited emails posing as ‘cute’ young women who just wanted somebody to talk to online – an offer many lonely male members were reluctant to refuse despite knowing the ‘women’ had no intention of meeting them in the real world.
By investing that little bit more money in their scam and using real human beings to trick customers rather than automated emails, the fake dating sites were able to convince the victims that the messages were more than just worthless spam.
The scam the eight executives are accused of operating is known as a ‘sukura’ in Japan.
It requires low-paid workers to interact with the victims and encourage them to keep up membership payments and pay extra for premium accounts, rather than using automated spam emails.
The majority of the employees at these sukuru companies are understood to be male.
The sites are conning so many people out of thousands of pounds that Japan’s Consumer Affairs Agency has made a fake advert intended to warn men of the dangers of sukura scams.
The advert shows a photograph of a young woman being told that the man she has been chatting to would like to meet her as he is being charged for every message he sends.
The woman’s reply is simple, saying: ‘Sorry. I can’t meet you. (I’m just a sakura after all).’