South African law enforcement agencies on Tuesday arrested eight foreign nationals in Cape Town for allegedly stealing $6.9 million through an online dating scam, the police said.
The group, caught during a raid early Tuesday morning, is accused of setting up fake online dating profiles and convincing victims to send them money.
Their main targets were widows and divorcees tricked into thinking they were “in a genuine romantic relationship”, South Africa’s elite police unit Hawks said in a statement.
The fraudsters allegedly made up “sob-stories”, intimidated and berated victims and disappeared once their objective was achieved, it said.
They are also suspected of using Business Email Compromise (BEC) to divert funds into their bank accounts.
Operations that led to the arrests were based on mutual legal assistance from the United States.
The US Federal Bureau of Investigation estimates that over 100 million people have fallen for the romance scams since 2011, losing a total of more than 100 million rand ($6.9 million).
The arrested suspects are believed to have ties to a transnational organised crime syndicate with roots outside South Africa.
They will be charged with a series of financial crimes, including conspiracy to commit mail fraud and money laundering.