Police unit to fight net fraud

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 26 June, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 26 June, 2011, 12:00am


Hong Kong police have assigned a designated crime unit to investigate internet fraud cases due to the steady annual increase in these offences.

The number of internet fraud cases reported to police has risen from 259 in 2008 to 623 in 2010. Already in the first three months of this year 211 cases have come under investigation.

Police have strengthened their intelligence analysis and taken a number of law-enforcement actions to deal with these crimes.

'We have taken the initiative to contact major internet service providers and post publicity messages on relevant websites to enhance the awareness of those who take part in internet auctions or e-shopping,' a police spokesman said.

One bogus Hong Kong online retail company swindled a number of customers in recent months.

British buyers made several complaints about Hong Kong-based SimplyElectronics.net on a variety of consumer websites and one irate customer also contacted the Sunday Morning Post to vent his anger about the company.

Peter Evans, a British journalist living in Inverness, Scotland, fell victim to the company's practices when he tried to buy a digital camera on May 23. He paid the asking price of GBP139.95 (HK$1,750) by Visa debit card and received confirmation of the order by e-mail. However, he was then asked to provide the company with additional information, allegedly to prevent online fraud.

'I refused to supply the details, immediately cancelled the order, and asked for a refund of the money taken from my account,' Evans said.

'But several weeks later I am still waiting for that refund. I have e-mailed the company and simply received replies saying the refund is 'being processed'.'

A search to find SimplyElectronics.net on consumer websites warning of fraudulent behaviour showed that many other people had been duped by this company's practices.

SimplyElectronics.net does not provide an address on its website, just a British phone number for customer service and sales inquiries. When the Post tried phoning these lines they were dead.

'I've never had a problem with internet purchases before and a Google search said SimplyElectronics.net was one of the top sites for cameras,' Evans said. 'For some reason it got a top rating.'

Hong Kong police received Evans' e-mail and confirmed active investigations by the crime unit of Sham Shui Po district were under way.

In all these instances the Hong Kong Consumer Council said it would first try to find out if the company involved was registered in Hong Kong. If this was the case and the company had behaved fraudulently they would then pass the information onto the police.

'If it is a simple case of a wrong delivery then we will assist the company and the correspondent in sorting out their problems, but if not and if a crime has obviously taken place we will contact the police,' a consumer council spokesman said.