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Scams and swindles

Businesswoman loses HK$12m in Hong Kong’s biggest phone scam case in nearly a year

Victim told police bogus mainland officials accused her of crime and demanded money to prove her innocence

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 26 January, 2017, 6:30pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 31 August, 2017, 10:54pm

A businesswoman became the city’s biggest phone scam victim in nearly a year after she was duped out of HK$12 million.

The case came to light after the North Point resident, 64, whose company has offices in Hong Kong and Macau, made a police report on Wednesday.

The woman received a call in late November from a man claiming to be an employee of a courier company, police said. She was told a parcel she had sent contained bogus credit cards.

The call was then transferred to a woman who claimed to be an officer from the mainland’s Public Security Bureau.

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

“The victim was accused of being involved in money laundering activities, and instructed to transfer money to two bank accounts on the mainland as surety and to prove her innocence,” a police source said.

“Between late November and mid-January, she transferred money to the two mainland bank accounts at least five times as instructed,” he said, adding: “She lost HK$12 million in total”

The woman realised she had been cheated after she talked to her son in Hong Kong on Wednesday. She then called police.

The case has been transferred to the Kowloon East regional crime unit.

Another source said there was a low chance of recovering the money as it would have been withdrawn within a short period of time after being deposited into the scammers’ bank accounts.

British retiree cheated out of HK$70,000 in phone scam first

Police said there were 656 phone scam cases last year involving fraudsters posing as mainland officials and swindling victims out of HK$203 million in total losses.

In 2015, there were 1,423 cases totalling HK$292 million in losses.

In a typical case, victims are told a parcel they mailed was problematic and violated mainland laws, and the calls are then transferred to someone claiming to be a mainland official.

The victims are instructed to prove their willingness to cooperate by transferring money to a mainland bank account.

Local police said mainland law enforcers would never ask people to hand over money to prove their innocence, or to request that users provide e-banking passwords over the phone or internet. They would also not issue online arrest warrants.

Last March, a Hong Kong businessman was cheated out of HK$58 million in a transnational phone scam. The amount was the largest loss ever recorded in the city for a phone scam.