Undercover police officers posing as mainland tourists are being deployed to catch taxi drivers who speed off with passengers' bags containing newly-purchased designer goods
The plain-clothes officers carry shopping as they wander streets such as Canton Road and Mody Road in Tsim Sha Tsui, where unscrupulous cabbies look for their targets.
The undercover operation was launched after 10 tourists - nine from the mainland and one French woman - lost a total of HK$300,000 worth of handbags and clothing in nine incidents between May and last month.
The drivers mainly prey on women tourists from the mainland who are carrying bags of brand-name goods.
Police say the drivers help passengers put their shopping in the boot, then claim they are in a hurry to hand their cabs to another driver because their shift will end soon. They then drive their passengers to Kowloon MTR station to change taxi.
"After passengers pay the fare and get out to collect their bags from the boot, the cabbies drive off with bags of luxury handbags and clothing," Chief Inspector Wong Chi-wai said.
He said they were still investigating how many taxi drivers were involved in such scams.
There are clues for passengers, Wong says. The drivers "do not display their driver identity card plates on their dashboards and do not charge passengers in accordance with the taxi meter".
They might charge HK$100 to HK$200 for a HK$50 trip.
On September 11, a 48-year-old taxi driver was arrested as part of the operation, accused of charging an undercover policeman posing as a tourist HK$100 for a HK$50 trip then driving away after being handed a HK$500 note.