HK$23m online shopping scam: pastor and husband arrested

Police say almost 90 people conned into online purchases that never arrived

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 19 April, 2014, 3:05am
UPDATED : Saturday, 19 April, 2014, 3:05am

A pastor and her husband were arrested on Wednesday on suspicion of involvement in an HK$23 million online shopping scam.

Police said almost 90 people - mostly middle-aged women - had been conned into paying a Tsim Sha Tsui company for high-end products such as watches and handbags that were then never delivered.

One shopper, along with several of her relatives, had been tricked out of HK$7 million.

"The victims were invited to attend gala dinners or other events by the company and then lured into paying about US$1,300 as a membership fee to open an account," said the source.

In return, they received 2,500 points which could supposedly be used towards the purchase of luxury goods through an auction and shopping website set up by the company.

However, to be allowed to use the points, shoppers were also required to make other purchases with cash.

"The price of the luxury goods listed on the website was well below the market price," the source said, adding that this helped encourage the shoppers to make further purchases.

"Victims were also asked to introduce relatives and friends to join the company so that they could earn more points to bid," he said.

The force's commercial crime bureau began investigating the company on Monday after shoppers failed to receive their orders. The bureau found that the company, thought to have been set up in January, had closed for business.

Officers arrested one woman, 53, a pastor, at her home in Ngau Tau Kok on Wednesday night. Her husband was arrested at his mother's home, also in Ngau Tau Kok.

By Thursday night, police had contacted 86 victims who lost a total of HK$23 million.

However, officers are checking whether there are more victims to come forward.

Last night, the couple were being held for questioning and no charges had been laid.

Police are appealing to anyone who thinks they may be a victim of the scam to contact officers on 2860 5012.