Job-seekers lose cash deposits in courier scam

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 07 June, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 07 June, 2011, 12:00am


Gullible job-seekers are paying cash up front to fraudsters who recruit them to carry 'valuable' goods to the border in the expectation of being paid handsomely for their courier duties - only to find their deposits gone and the contents of their packages worthless.

They pay to ensure they will not make off with the goods before handing them to a contact at or across the border, but when they arrive the contact is nowhere to be found. It is one of the new tricks used in online job scams that have prompted police to set up a special task force to tackle the problem.

Officers say 23 per cent more people fell victim to job fraud last year than in 2009.

'As summer is approaching, it is a prime time for teenagers to find jobs. But some may be too keen on getting a job, creating an opportunity for conmen to deceive them out of their money,' said Superintendent Denis Chan Sung-shing of the commercial crime bureau.

He said the cheats often offered jobs with low qualification requirements but high pay. 'Remember, there really is no free lunch in this world.'

Of 10 recruitment scams reported in the first three months of this year, the courier trick accounted for nine.

Detective Chief Inspector Maxim Kwok Mei-sum, who also works at the bureau, said in some cases victims were told they would get several thousand dollars for transporting expensive gadgets.

'Of course when they reached the destination they could not see anyone and the deposit they had placed would have gone,' Kwok said. 'And when they unpack the goods, they find no valuable electronic product but just valueless items.'

Other new tricks include forcing victims to pay for training courses before they can apply for sales positions, and hiring 'undercover customers' to assess the service quality of financial companies - in which the victims end up borrowing money on behalf of the swindlers.

The force broke 56 cases of recruitment fraud last year, three more than the previous year. Forty-seven involved cheating victims out of a deposit. Some 81 people, aged 17 to 77, were victimised last year, 15 more than in 2009. But the total money lost dropped from HK$1.18 million to HK$880,000.

Kwok said the increase in the number of victims was due to several cases involving a number of people.

Inspector Amy Cheung Hung-yin, of the technology crime division, said the internet was a new platform for swindlers. She reminded people to beware of job ads that only carried e-mail addresses or instant messenger account names as contacts.

Superintendent Chan said the new task force had a flexible number of members depending on the complexity of cases. So far, it had smashed the 'undercover customer' scam.