Left with 100 yuan: businesswoman duped of close to HK$4 million in latest round of phone scams

About 10 victims in similar cases over past five weeks, including university professor who lost HK$110,000

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 08 September, 2016, 4:01pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 08 September, 2016, 8:52pm

A university professor and a businesswoman were among the latest victims of a phone scam in which con artists posed as immigration and law enforcement officers, with the latter being duped of close to HK$4 million.

There were about 10 victims in similar cases in the past five weeks, the Post has learned.

“The businesswoman was cheated out of 3.37 million yuan (HK$3.92 million). Among them, she was the biggest loser. The other victims were mostly cheated of tens of thousands of dollars each,” one source said.

From street con-artists to phone fraud: A history of Hong Kong scams ... and how to avoid becoming another victim

According to police, the businesswoman, 39, received a call from a man claiming to be a Hong Kong immigration officer when she was in her office in Central on Monday. It is understood she had moved to the city and set up her company about two years ago.

“She was accused of being involved with a mainland criminal case in which a person was arrested and [there was] a large number of bogus credit cards,” the source said. “She was accused of conspiring to manufacture the cards and launder crime proceeds.”

The call was then transferred to another man, who claimed to be a policeman from Hangzhou in Zhejiang province.

“She was asked to transfer three million yuan into her mainland bank account to prove she had a lot of money and did not need to commit crimes,” the source said.

After she transferred the money, the bogus policeman called on the following day and asked her to download a programme onto her computer, saying it was used to check the device for any criminal evidence.

Police believed the software helped the scammers hack into her computer and obtain the password to her mainland bank account.

She told police more than three million yuan had been withdrawn from the account, leaving behind less than 100 yuan

In a separate case, a professor, 59, who moved to the city more than 10 years ago, received a call from a man claiming to be an immigration officer when she was at home in Kowloon City on Wednesday morning.

“She was accused of being involved in a mainland deception case. The call was then transferred to another man posing as a mainland policeman who asked her to transfer about HK$110,000 into a designated mainland bank account to prove her innocence,” the source said.

The professor realised she had been cheated after she talked to her friends and found the money had been taken out from her bank account. She called police at about 6pm on Wednesday.

After the ruse surfaced last month, the Immigration Department issued a warning on August 18, urging the public to stay vigilant about bogus voice messages and phone calls claiming to be from its officers.

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

According to police, the phone scam syndicates duped 193 people out of HK$100.3 million in the first seven months of this year.

Figures showed the number of such scams rose to 17 in July from three in June this year.

Between July and December last year, the overseas-based syndicates had cheated about 500 victims out of more than HK$260 million.

The city’s biggest scam victim was a 53-year-old Yuen Long resident who was cheated out of more than HK$58 million. His case came to light when he called police in March this year.

Scammers typically pose as mainland or Hong Kong government officials and accuse their victims of breaking the law. They demand large amounts of money as a way to prove the victim’s innocence and settle the problem.