More online sellers conned into deal-and-run transactions at Hong Kong train stations

New tactic involves sales exchange over a railing between paid and unpaid zones

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 03 January, 2017, 12:02am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 03 January, 2017, 12:02am

More online sellers are falling prey to a new scam – face-to-face transactions between different zones at train stations where fake buyers hand empty envelopes as “payment” over the railings, then flee with the sale items, police warn.

According to official figures, although the number of e-shopping scam cases dropped year-on-year by 10 per cent to 945 in the first three quarters of 2016, total monetary losses remained the same at HK$12.7 million.

Barry Wong Kok-seng, senior inspector from the cyber security and technology crime bureau, said police recently spotted more conmen disguised as buyers and luring online sellers to make a transaction in person at a train station.

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The conmen stay in the paid area, dealing with sellers in the unpaid zone over a railing. This way, scammers can easily make a run for it once the sale items are exchanged.

“After the seller hands a product to the conman, he or she is given a bag, a red packet or even a paper cigar box with an assurance that the money is inside,” Wong said, adding that the swindler would then flee with the item while the seller was distracted and checking for payment.

“People think face-to-face transactions are safe, but actually there are also traps.”

Wong said conmen targeted expensive products such as electronic devices and smart phones.

Police do not think these scammers are controlled by syndicates.

Wong declined to reveal the number of arrests made in such cases or how many victims had fallen prey to the scams, but he said the bureau recently received “an increasing number” of reports related to the new tactics.

He also warned that persons in any age group could fall for such traps in the virtual world.

“There is no age limit in terms of online shopping. Anyone can be buyers and sellers,” Wong added, urging members of the public to stay vigilant when making online deals.