Mainland suspect arrested in Hong Kong after alert woman thwarts HK$70,000 phone scam

Conman previously swindled two victims out of a total of HK$91,500 for freeing ‘abducted’ relatives

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 01 March, 2017, 1:59pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 01 March, 2017, 10:19pm

A mainland visitor has been arrested in connection with at least three phone scam cases in which victims were asked for money in exchange for the release of their “abducted” relatives.

The man, 32, was believed to have collected two payments totalling HK$91,500 from two victims hours before he was picked up in a police ambush on Tuesday evening.

The arrest was made at Mong Kok MTR station when the suspect arrived to collect HK$70,000 from the third victim, a 55-year-old woman, according to Chief Inspector Cheung Chi-chung from Tai Po police station.

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

The woman was at home on Tuesday afternoon when she received a phone call from a man who claimed her son had been abducted. She was told he would be hurt if she failed to pay HK$70,000.

Instead of falling for the ruse, the woman confirmed that her son was safe before contacting police shortly before 3pm.

She then took the cash – as instructed by the scammer – to Mong Kok MTR station, where plainclothes officers lay in wait, according to the chief inspector.

Cheung said the suspect was arrested when he came to collect the money at 5.35pm.

Initial investigations showed the man was linked with two other cases. One victim, a 75-year-old man, lost HK$50,000, according to a police spokesman. The other case involved a sum of HK$41,500, but the victim did not make a police report.

Officers are investigating whether the mainland man was linked to other telephone deception cases.

A police source believes the suspect was sent to Hong Kong to collect the money and officers were investigating who was behind him.

Steep increase in Hong Kong phone scam victims despite repeated police warnings

The suspect was still being detained at Tai Po police station for questioning on Wednesday and had not been charged.

The police put out various messages to the public about the dangers of phone scams, including “Do not disclose names of your children, relatives or friends to callers”, “Call your children, relatives or friends to verify”, and “Do not transfer money to strangers’ bank accounts or place any money in a public area”.

Other advice includes “Alert the elderly, relatives and friends regarding the above scam messages, especially for those who rarely read or watch local news”.

Anyone found guilty of deception, fraud or handling criminal proceeds could be jailed for 14 years.

Police figures show there were 7,260 reports of deception last year, a 22.4 per cent drop from 9,353 in 2015.