Eight cases of brazen scams aimed at cheating victims out of millions
Despite police warnings, the public continues to fall prey to con artists, losing millions of dollars in life savings.
Swindlers have come up with various ways to trick people into handing over their money through social media and phone scams, although in some cases quick-thinking bystanders have managed to thwart their plans just in time.
Here are eight stories of the victims - and the heros - who have been caught up in the scams.
1. Bogus bank in China scams people of over US$30.7 million
A fake bank in China that looked exactly like a real one managed to scam people out of almost 200 million yuan (US$30.7 million) worth of deposits in just a year.
The “bank”, in Nanjing’s Pukou district in Jiangsu province, promised customers 2 per cent interest each week for their deposits. Almost 200 people were conned.
One businessman from Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, deposited millions from his company, but stopped receiving interest for the money after just four weeks.
2. Chinese woman duped into pouring cola into ATM in phone scam
A woman in southern China was arrested for pouring a soft drink into an ATM after she was duped by telephone scammers into believing it would help her claim money back.
The woman, 33, lost 5,000 yuan (US$728) because of the scam in November 2016, and was later told by the fraudster that she could get a refund receipt by pouring a cola drink into the ATM.
When nothing came out of the machine, she realised she had been scammed, and asked a nearby traffic police officer for help. Months later, she was arrested for vandalism.
3. Chinese man arrested for phone scam that drained bank account of millions of yuan in less than 10 minutes
A man in southern China was arrested for allegedly making off with millions of yuan from a woman in a phone scam – all in less than 10 minutes.
Chen Fujin, 37, took more than 8.8 million yuan (US$1.4 million) from the bank account of the woman in Quanzhou, Fujian province, in January 2016.
In less than 10 minutes after obtaining the woman’s bank account details, Chen and his accomplices transferred all the money in the account to more than 120 accounts of their own.
4. Girl, 14, becomes Hong Kong’s youngest victim of a phone scam
A 14-year-old girl in July 2017 became Hong Kong’s youngest victim of a phone scam after two con artists posing as an immigration officer and a mainland official duped her out of HK$7,500 (US$958).
The Form One student told police she had received a call from a man claiming to be a Hong Kong immigration officer on July 5, and was accused of being involved in a money laundering case.
“He then transferred the call to another man who claimed to be an officer from Shanghai’s police authority, who instructed her to transfer money to a mainland bank account to prove her innocence,” a police source said. He said the victim had been told the money was to be used as a “surety”.
As instructed, the victim transferred HK$7,500 to the account via a money exchange store on the same day.
She realised it was a scam when she told her parents what had happened two days later.
5. Chinese police bust social media scams targeting lovelorn men
Police busted three major social media scams in eastern China, involving 149 suspects who posed as thousands of young women to dupe men seeking romance.
One of the three companies was estimated to have daily profits of at least 120,000 yuan (US$17,400).
The scams targeted men in their 40s or 50s with a strong financial standing. Fraudsters created thousands of bogus WeChat accounts, pretending to be young, attractive women, and befriended victims in an attempt to seduce and scam them.
Female employees of the company would send voice messages to earn the targets’ trust, and a vast collection of videos and pictures were available if targets requested further verification.
One suspect said that flirty phrases like “do you want to guess” and “you bastard” were especially effective at capturing men’s attention.
6. Two Hong Kong domestic helpers praised for foiling phone scams
Two Indonesian domestic helpers prevented their employers from falling for phone scams, thanks to their quick thinking and fluency in Cantonese.
The first, Wiwik, helped her 78-year-old employer, who received a phone call from a person claiming to be her son. Claiming to be in Shenzhen, the “son” said he was being held by mainland police and needed 20,000 yuan (US$3,070) to be released.
Wiwik overheard the conversation and sent a WhatsApp message to her employer’s son in Canada. After he confirmed that he was still in the country, Wiwik convinced her employer not to send the money.
The other case involved an 85-year-old woman who was told by someone claiming to be her son that he needed to borrow HK$30,000 (US$3,830) from her.
Frightened and flustered, she was ready to deposit the money when her helper, Istikomah, intervened, contacting her employer’s two sons who said they were well and did not need any money.
7. Kind-hearted Hong Kong shop owner saves woman from phone scam
The owner of a currency exchange shop foiled a phone scam when con artists tried to dupe an 18-year-old woman into transferring HK$20,000 (US$2,550) into a mainland bank account through his North Point shop in May 2017.
The woman received a call from a male con artist posing as a local immigration officer, before the call was transferred to another man who claimed he was a Shanghai police officer.
She was accused of being involved in a money laundering case and was asked to transfer money into a mainland bank account for investigation purposes.
When she arrived at the Fort Street exchange shop and tried to make the transfer, the shop owner found that she seemed to be nervous and acting suspiciously.
Believing she had fallen prey to scammers, the good-hearted owner called the police.
8. Hong Kong woman scammed out of US$1.3 million by fake police officers
A Hong Kong woman was duped into handing over more than HK$10 million (US$1.3 million) by scammers posing as mainland police officers.
The 42-year-old housewife received a call from a con man claiming to be a Shanghai police officer, who accused her of committing a criminal offence across the border.
The scammer ordered the woman, surnamed Lee, to open a bank account in the mainland and transfer HK$10.3 million for “investigation purposes”.
The victim told Hong Kong authorities she handed over the bank account password to the con artists, who then emptied the account.