Telephone scams

Phone scammers cheat student, 18, of HK$420,000, then try to swindle dad of millions more

Con artists posed as officials, accused him of being involved in criminal case, then demanded he put money in mainland bank account

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 10 November, 2016, 10:45am
UPDATED : Thursday, 10 November, 2016, 4:15pm

In the latest phone scam in Hong Kong, con artists swindled an 18-year-old university student from Taiwan out of HK$420,000 by posing as officials, accusing him of being involved in a deception case and demanding the money as a surety.

Not satisfied with that sum, the scammers lured the University of Science and Technology student to Shanghai, supposedly to help with an investigation, then called the victim’s father in Taiwan in an attempt trick the older man out of more money, a police source said.

“The father was told over the phone that his son was being held hostage, and he was told to pay two million yuan (HK$2.28 million), or he would not see his son again,” the source added.

But that was when the scammers’ luck ran out. Instead of paying up, the student’s father checked with a friend in the city and found out his son was safe. The friend then made a police report.

Hong Kong businessman cheated out of record HK$58m in phone scam

The string of events began on October 28, when the student, surnamed Tsou, received a call from a female con artist claiming to be a Hong Kong immigration officer. She accused him of being involved in a mainland criminal case.

“The call was then transferred to a man who claimed he was a Shanghai security official and asked the victim to open a mainland bank account in Shenzhen and transfer money into the account as a surety,” the police source said.

As instructed, Tsou went to Shenzhen to open a bank account on October 30 and transferred HK$420,000 there the next day. He was also told to enter his personal information and the account details as well as the password on a website.

Tsou then received a call from the bogus mainland policeman last Friday and was asked to go to Shanghai to help with an investigation. The student flew to Shanghai on Monday and stayed for one night before returning to Hong Kong on Tuesday.

Tsou only realised he had been tricked when he received a call from his father’s friend shortly after he returned from Shanghai.

“He later found HK$420,000 had been taken out of his mainland bank account,” the source said.

Police are treating the case as “obtaining property by deception”.

Detectives from the Kwun Tong police district are investigating. So far, no one has been arrested.

Hong Kong woman loses more than HK$8.7 million to phone scammers

In a similar case in September, an 18-year-old mainland Chinese student at the Chinese University of Hong Kong was swindled out of HK$1.2 million in a phone scam.

Students comprised nearly a quarter of the 149 victims in Hong Kong duped out of a total of HK$110 million by phone scammers in the first eight months of this year. The victims included 13 students from the mainland, and the youngest was a 17-year-old secondary school student.

According to police, many youngsters and newcomers, including students from the mainland, were deceived as they were not aware of phone scams and related tactics.

In such cases, victims are typically accused of breaking mainland laws before the calls are transferred to someone claiming to be from the mainland police. The victims are told to prove their willingness to cooperate by transferring money to a mainland bank account as a surety.