Rise in bogus kidnapping calls, security chief warns

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 27 September, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 27 September, 2011, 12:00am

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The secretary for security yesterday warned about an increase in the number of phone scams involving bogus kidnapping threats.

'Con men call a mother and say her son has been kidnapped, and demand a ransom; in fact there is no [kidnap],' Ambrose Lee Siu-kwong said after attending a fight-crime committee.

The committee provides advice and recommends measures to prevent and reduce crime. It also co-ordinates crime-fighting forces and monitors their results.

The total number of deception cases handled by police in the first eight months was 3,970, up 17 per cent compared with the period last year. Of these, 1,138 were phone scams; 68 per cent - or 779 cases - involved bogus kidnapping threats.

In another common trick, called a 'guess who I am' scam, victims were led to believe that caller was a relative or friend, and convinced to send money to them. But this type of scam declined this year after an operation that smashed a syndicate on the mainland in January, Lee said.

Meanwhile, online commercial fraud recorded a 36 per cent jump to 548 cases. Many cases involved online shopping or auctions.

The total number of crime cases in the first eight months was 50,215, down 0.2 per cent compared with the same period last year.

Police and customs seized 146kg of heroin, up 198 per cent; and 18kg of cannabis, up 157 per cent.

Lee denied that drug abuse was worsening. The number of dangerous-drug cases had dropped 7 per cent, he said, and the number of youngsters arrested for drugs had fallen by 12.8 per cent, year on year.

Some 98 per cent of heroin had been intercepted at control points, meaning police and customs had stopped the drug from entering or leaving Hong Kong, he said.

Other crimes that recorded a year-on-year rise included blackmail, arson, snatching, pickpocketing and triad-related crime.

Lee said that the government had prepared for different outcomes on the verdict, expected on Thursday, in a judicial review by a domestic helper fighting for her right of abode.

5.1%

Violent crimes dropped by this much in the first eight months, to 8,642 cases