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Scams and swindles

Hong Kong man, 44, cheated of HK$3.3 million in phone scam

Con artists posed as mainland officials and demanded money from victim after accusing him of criminal offence

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 16 April, 2017, 1:55pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 31 August, 2017, 10:52pm

A 44-year-old immigrant to Hong Kong has become the latest victim of a phone scam, losing three million yuan (HK$3.3 million) to con artists claiming to be local and mainland officials.

The victim, surnamed Lam, received a phone call on April 8 from an unknown male who claimed to be a local immigration officer and accused him of having committed a criminal offence.

The caller passed the line to another person, who claimed to be a Shanghai police officer and ordered the victim to follow their directions and hand over the password to his mainland bank account.

“The man transferred the money to six Chinese bank accounts between April 8 and 12,” a police source close to the matter said. “He is an immigrant from the mainland and told officers he had never heard of phone scams and any news about it.”

Lam, a renovation worker who lives in Tsuen Wan, later discovered that 3 million yuan had gone missing from his account.

He reported the incident to police last Thursday.

Police said preliminary investigations pointed to fraud. The Wan Chai criminal unvestigation unit is following up on the case.

These tactics are common. Victims are typically accused of breaking mainland laws before the calls are transferred to someone claiming to be from the mainland police. They are told to prove their willingness to cooperate by transferring money to a mainland bank account as surety.

The latest round of phone scams came after Commissioner of Police Stephen Lo Wai-chung led a delegation to Guilin in Guangxi province last Friday to attend an annual meeting with mainland public security authorities. Cyber and technology crime was one of the topics of discussion.

The force recorded 1,138 telephone deception cases last year, down 60 per cent on 2015 figures. The total financial loss from phone scams fell by HK$96 million to HK$220 million in 2016.

Lo earlier this year said fraudsters posing as mainland officials were committing the bulk of deception cases, with victims losing a total of HK$203 million last year.

Just a week ago, an elderly woman lost almost HK$4 million after she was duped into believing she was involved in a mainland criminal case and told to transfer the money to a mainland bank account to prove her innocence and help in an investigation.

Officers arrested a suspected female fraudster last Monday when she came to collect the money.