Part Three: Yulong
As a member of GASO since summer of 2021, I write about scam-baiting not to exploit the scammers, whether they be good or bad people, but rather to offer an account of their lives for readers to understand who these people are and where they come from. Part of the process of getting to know a scammer involves some emotional outreach -- that is, I attempt to connect to the scammer (again, whether they are a “good” or “bad” person) emotionally and foster a sort of trust. Once a trust is established, I spend time with the individual to understand their personality, what brought them to scamming, and what their daily lives are like. Some scammers share photos of their lives or even footage of themselves (against company policy), while others are terrified as it will elicit strong retribution from their bosses if discovered. The most difficult part is connecting with the scammer, as most scammers are not too keen on being “friends” with potential victims and many fear trouble from their bosses or law enforcement by chatting personally with an internet stranger. The “chatting” phase, before the “big reveal” where I admit that I know they are a scammer, is often a mysterious and ambiguous process, as I struggle to determine what, if anything, a scammer has told me is real and whether or not their feelings of connection with me is real or part of a scam.
One such example of this difficulty was the young man named Yulong, whom I met in February 2022 on Facebook Dating in Los Angeles. His “package” included photos of a young, attractive k-drama-like man who was from the East Coast. We conversed via the LINE app and as soon as I added him, our chat messages were like continuous volleys bouncing back and forth across the entire day with few pauses in between. He told me stories about chasing dragonflies and watching fish and frogs in the ponds around the rice paddies as a child and the urbanization of his hometown. We talked about Bing Dwen Dwen and which people are allowed to be panda caretakers. He claimed to be messaging me from the toilet when his stomach hurt and he even sang a Jay Chou song for me, saying not to laugh at his horrible singing. He asked many details about my life, sending voice notes often.
I learned quickly that he could also become angry. If he stepped out for a few hours, he would be upset that I did not check in with him while he was gone. If I went out for dinner or worked too long without checking in, he would be angry as well. Sometimes I would check the phone to discover two missed calls, knowing that I was in for a scolding when I returned. Whenever he was mad, he would want to know why I didn’t respond and if I was talking to other men. I would explain that I was busy, but it wasn’t enough, and our arguments could become impassioned and drawn out, lasting hours. I would have deleted our chat many times, except that he seemed determined to work through the disagreements.
These aspects of Yulong made assessing him very difficult. Some aspects of what he said, like talking about pandas or his anger, seemed so genuine. Yet he was a scammer after all, and some scammers are very good at acting. If a connection is not real, then the time I spend with the scammer will all be wasted in one moment after the reveal. In Yulong’s case, he was so believable as a genuine person that sometimes I wondered if he was really a scammer, despite knowing the answer. Still, he didn’t fit the typical scammer personality and I still wondered how someone like him ended up in a job like this.
On the third day, Yulong introduced me to cryptocurrency, dishing out a fraudulent copy of a real trading platform. His explanation of cryptocurrency (and even NFTs) was accurate, better than any other scammer explanation I had read so far. I quizzed him on details of trading and his logical responses were convincing. He tried to convince me to top up money onto the platform, but I told him I’d do it the next day. Disappointed, he argued with me angrily about it but decided he would wait for me.
By the fourth day, I knew the “big reveal” was fast approaching and held mixed emotions thereto. That night while chatting, Yulong became impatient once again while I paused to speak with my roommate. Although sad from knowing the backlash to come, I began the reveal by expressing truthfully that I was in fact a student who made little money and was absent because I was speaking with my roommate.
He was taken aback -- not because I had made him believe I was a working professional, but rather because I was younger than he thought.
“Can you video call me?” I asked.
“I’m not in the mood,” he stated.
“You never video call me because you are not allowed, isn’t it? I know what you are, but I don’t understand why someone like you will be a scammer.”
Behind the screen, I could feel the fiery flames of anger.
“Do you think I’m a liar?
Do you think I’m a liar?
Do you think I’m a liar?
Do you think I’m a liar?
Turns out you’re feeling sad because of this. We can video call.
Let’s break up after the video call is over.”
Of course the video call didn’t happen. He felt betrayed at being called a scammer and would not end the scolding, even after numerous apologies. No words could appease the rage. By the end of another impassioned argument complete with lots of scolding, we decided to cut off all contact. At that point, I still felt suspicious that this was all part of Yulong’s script.
In the days following, I was certain I would never speak with the scammer Yulong again, and I continued to wonder if his words to me were part of a script or if he had meant any of what he had said. Three days later, a LINE notification from the scammer flashed across the phone screen, saying that he had missed me. I responded, and another explosive fight broke out. Yulong would not accept any doubt about his whereabouts in America or his investments in cryptocurrency. He explained that he was mostly hurt that I had called him a scammer.
“Would you forgive me if I said you were a liar and then I apologized to you?” he challenged angrily.
“Yes,” I replied.
“Funny,” he shot back, “because you haven’t been called a liar by me, so you don’t know how it feels to be called a liar, and it’s said by the person you love.”
Angrily, I argued on, refusing to be gaslit. Was he still so naive to try getting money from me?
“I don’t believe your story,” I told him, “but I will pretend to believe it if that’s what you really want.” I tapped the “video call” button angrily but no one answered.
“I’m not asking you to show your face,” I huffed. “I’m just telling you not to lie to me.”
Finally, a resignation. “Okay. I am not the man in the photos,” he said, “But my feelings for you are real.” Then, despite the risk, he video called me, revealing his face in full, although none of us dared to say a word during the call.
One of the times he showed himself
Wang Yujin (alias), who goes by “Yulong” (his scam name), is a 19-year-old boy from rural China who was tricked into thinking he would work a factory job in Myanmar for fine pay, but instead ended up in a scam sweatshop. He had been there for nearly two years already, forced to scam Chinese. However, with a change of leadership at his company, a new boss reset his redemption price to 200,000 RMB and forced all the employees to begin scamming Asians in Western countries, primarily US or Canadian individuals. In an interesting coincidence, I managed to obtain a photo of his compound. The place is large enough to house hundreds of employees. They seem to be free to walk the grounds in a limited capacity, likely because there is nowhere to escape. There is a little convenience store in the industrial park where people can buy instant ramen, cigarettes, and drinks, and the dormitory is connected to the offices. There is a fence which guards the perimeter of the grounds. Wang Yujin stated many times that he may die there, but that he would not go down without a fight and that he was to be feared.
Yujin buying instant ramen in scam compound's convenience store
I am still in contact with Yulong, but GASO has little capacity to help scammers caught in Myanmar. He has shared with me the town where he is from, the shell company of his boss, and even connected me with his brother in China. When he is alone, he sometimes secretly video calls from a private space in the building. In the beginning, our chats and video calls were daily. After some weeks, however, he fell more and more under stress, saying that his boss had unreasonable requests about who to add. They had very specific quotas for the number of people who must be added per day and one could not go to sleep until he had matched the quotas, leading Yulong to sleep less than four hours a night. Only westernized Asians who fell within a certain range of posts on Instagram and number of friends would be “counted” for the quotas.
Every day in the afternoon, they appeared to have meetings with their boss, who would check the people they added and accept or not accept the added people as part of the quota fulfillment. Additionally, they would have twice daily virtual “check-ins” where they must announce the number of people added and number scammed. If one had successfully scammed, a celebratory post would be sent to all employees on the amount awarded; if one scammed enough to go home, a celebratory post would announce that this is the reward that befalls any employee who works hard. All employees, unless they had scammed someone, would be beaten daily, usually in the back, face, or legs. There are also many ways to incite a fine: for example, if you talk with someone for more than 3 days, you will be fined. If you break a phone, you will be fined. I found that Yulong’s insistence to talk with me longer cost him the equivalent of over $200 USD. He had also accrued additional fines for breaking phones.
Him on an IV drip after exhaustion from over-work
In an attempt to rescue him, I tried to contact the Myanmar Embassy, the Chinese Embassy in the US, an anti-fraud government group in China, the Chinese police, and the anti-human trafficking group IJM. I even wrote an exposure post in Chinese scam forums, asking if anyone had contacts in Myanmar who could help. The only person who responded was another scam company interested in buying him. GASO itself had limited resources to save him because he was in KoKang, Myanmar, in a zone controlled by drug lords .
Screenshot auto-translated from Chinese.
He has had many fears of dying there, but his brother told him to stay strong and fight bravely until death. His brother, training to be a police officer, told me that Yulong’s case was already reported to the Chinese police when he arrived in Myanmar. However, because of China’s extreme precautions against Covid-19, borders have been closed and their attention has been focused elsewhere. Yulong often speaks of his grandmother, as she is now 70 years old. He hopes to one day go back home to see her before she gets too old. Recently, Yulong revealed that his boss had obtained a police officer’s electric baton and was hitting employees who did not comply with company rules. He had heard that many had already died in the building, although he did not know them. Since then, our chats have been limited. He has still not managed to make any dent in his payments to them.
More info on Myanmar-based scam companies in English and Chinese:
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