Hong Kong government calls for caution after scammers posing as officials strike again

Four women targeted by con artists in recent days and swindled out of more than HK$400,000

PUBLISHED : Friday, 19 August, 2016, 3:06pm
UPDATED : Friday, 19 August, 2016, 6:31pm

The Hong Kong government has issued a stern warning to the public to stay alert after a spate of phone scammers posing as officials.

Over the past 10 days, three women aged between 21 and 35 have been cheated out of about HK$100,000, according to police.

All three victims allegedly received calls from phone scammers claiming to be Hong Kong immigration officers. Two of the women were located in North Point and the third in Yau Ma Tei.

Meanwhile, a housewife who moved to Hong Kong from the mainland several years ago was duped out of 320,000 yuan (HK$374,000) by con artists posing as mainland immigration officials, police said on Friday.

The Hung Hom resident, 45, reported the scam to police on Friday morning after the money had been taken from her mainland bank account.

According to police, the woman received a call around midday on Thursday from a man claiming to be a mainland immigration officer who accused her of being involved in a case of deception. The call was then transferred to another man who claimed to be a security officer. He told the woman to enter the details and password of her mainland bank account into a website for investigation purposes.

The incident emerged just hours after the city’s Immigration Department had issued a warning against phone scams. On Thursday night the government urged the public to stay vigilant to bogus voice messages and phone calls claiming to be from its offices.

“The Immigration Department will not make any pre-recorded voice calls to any members of the public,” it said.

“The public should remain vigilant and verify the identity of a caller when contacted by phone, and should not disclose their personal information to others arbitrarily.

“Anyone suspecting a scam should immediately report it to the police.”

The department added that the public should not simply rely on incoming call displays to establish the true identity of the caller.

Thursday’s warning was allegedly prompted by a number of public enquiries over suspicious voice messages and phone calls, which claimed to be from the Immigration Department.

The calls advised recipients of uncollected mail waiting for them at the department and requested personal information by following a set of further instructions, the department said.

Between July last year and April this year, phone-scam syndicates have cheated Hongkongers out of more than HK$350 million, police statistics show. The city’s biggest scam victim was in October when a man was cheated out of more than HK$58 million.

According to police, Hongkongers were cheated out of more than HK$85 million in July alone.

Scammers have made a habit of posing as mainland or Hong Kong government officials in order to con their victims into revealing their personal details.

According to authorities, they accuse their victims of breaking the law before demanding money as a way of proving innocence and co-operation.

In March, con artists posing as bogus Hong Kong immigration officers duped about 20 Hongkongers out of about HK$1 million. The ruse prompted to the department to issue a clarification at that time.

In January and February, swindlers also posed as Hong Kong judicial representatives, but failed to make any money. Westerners were also targeted by crime syndicates based in Singapore posing as courier companies.

Anyone that suspects a scam or has any doubts should contact the department’s enquiry hotline on 2824 6111 or email: enquiry@imm.gov.hk.