Fraudsters run scam in posh offices

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 03 June, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 03 June, 2004, 12:00am

Conmen move into luxury premises to swindle $14.5m from job hunters

Street confidence tricksters have moved their operational bases to luxury offices in high-rise commercial buildings, cheating 67 job hunters out of $14.5 million in the past six months.

Police said yesterday the victims - all women - were cheated out of an average of $210,000 each after they were offered attractive salaries for unskilled work as cleaners, messengers and clerical assistants. Officers said the fraudsters set up trading companies and placed job advertisements in newspapers to find their potential victims.

'The jobs were attractive as potential victims were offered a monthly salary of between $5,000 and $6,000 but were only required to work half-days.

'Their work was simple and involved cleaning and making tea or coffee,' said Senior Superintendent Chan Yiu-kwok, of the Commercial Crime Bureau.

After accepting the jobs, conmen posing as their colleagues lured the victims into buying low-priced items including medicine, electrical goods, toy cars, silk scarves and ties from their companies and selling them to make a profit.

'They were promised that buyers were available and that they would receive a profit of between 30 and 40 per cent on their investments, Mr Chan said.

But they later found that the companies had closed and they had lost all their money.

Investigations revealed that most of the so-called transactions were bogus.

It is understood some of the victims never received their wages before being cheated out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Superintendent Chan Man-yin said conmen had used similar methods of deception on the streets in Hong Kong in the past.

'They have now moved their bases to offices to earn the trust of potential victims before cheating them,' he said.

He urged job hunters to be suspicious if they were asked to invest, pay an amount of money to buy certain products or receive training to land a job.

On Monday and Tuesday, Commercial Crime Bureau officers arrested nine employees of Super Trading Company which set up an office in Sino Plaza, Causeway Bay, a month ago.

Police suspect the eight men and a woman were also employees of another trading company which cheated 25 victims out of $6.17 million earlier this year. The company has since closed.

To date, police have identified six such companies, including Super Trading Company, and 67 victims aged between 29 and 55 who were conned out of $14.5 million.

People who have been cheated in recruitment scams should contact police on 2860 5012.