Between photo-stealing and AI-generated content, it’s getting increasingly difficult to avoid catfish in the world of online dating.
Some catfish lure in targets with the promise of a K-Drama romance to extort exorbitant amounts of money. They leave their victims financially and emotionally wounded, and, sadly, some of these catfish are never caught.
This wasn’t the case, however, for con artist He Gansheng–an unemployed, married man with children–who played with fire and got burned. He Gansheng, then in his thirties, tricked women into believing he was three different, attractive men: a PhD student, a lawyer, and a wealthy doctor from various parts of China.
According to the South China Morning Post, He Gansheng stole photos of two very real South Korean men who likely had no idea that their faces were being used to commit crimes. None of the 39 women that He Gansheng swindled met him in person, but the real He Gansheng is reportedly “ordinary-looking” and “short at 160cm [5’2″] tall.“
For a while, He Gansheng was flying high as China’s version of the infamous Tinder Swindler. By romancing his girlfriends and convincing them that he needed cash to pay off his bills, including his mortgage and credit cards, He Gansheng swindled them out of ¥560,000 yuan (approximately $79,173 USD) over four years.
The scam began in 2016 and ended in May of 2020, when He Gangsheng’s last victim–a 22-year-old woman scammed out of her life savings–reported him to the police. In April of 2021, he was fined ¥30,000 yuan ($4,241 USD) and sentenced to 11 years in prison.