Latest phone scam sees victims threatened over fake pregnancies

PUBLISHED : Monday, 30 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 30 September, 2013, 8:43am

Telephone con artists have found a new way to dupe vulnerable people - usually elderly ones - out of their money.

In the past, they have posed as police and debt collectors to deceive people into paying to help relatives out of phoney trouble.

Now they are posing as the father or boyfriend of a woman who they claim has been made pregnant by the victim's son.

"The victims were told that their son would be beaten to death if they refused to pay or compensate," Chief Inspector Dennis Luk Hoi-ho said.

He said fraudsters usually demanded HK$200,000 at first, but this would be lowered to about HK$100,000 after negotiation. The scammers then demand that the money be left in places such as parks or busy roadsides, avoiding bank accounts - which are easy for police to trace.

Although the success rate is low, at least one elderly woman who does not even have a son has been duped recently.

Luk said the con artists relied on confusing their victims with intimidating tactics, so that they had no time to think.

Police on Hong Kong Island have had at least 10 reports of the new tactic - thought to be used by two or three mainland conmen - since it was first noticed about six months ago.

Police have received about 1,200 reports of telephone scams this year, and arrested 10 mainlanders and one Taiwanese man on such charges. Con artists have pocketed HK$22.8 million.

As the National Day "golden week" holiday begins tomorrow, police in uniform and plain clothes will step up patrols to fight quick-cash crimes, which include pickpocketing, theft, snatching and deception.

Luk warned that mainland tourists could be the targets of thieves during the holiday.

He said mainland thieves might also come to the city and look for opportunities to steal in areas popular with tourists.