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Scams and swindles

Why are so many young people falling for phone scams?

Among 156 victims in first four months of this year, 56 per cent were below 30

PUBLISHED : Monday, 29 May, 2017, 8:48am
UPDATED : Thursday, 31 August, 2017, 10:50pm

Hong Kong police say more young people have been falling prey to phone scams recently, possibly due to their being less exposed to news reports on the issue.

A total of 279 phone scam cases were reported in the first four months of this year, two fewer than in the same period last year, with 217 of them involving financial losses, which amounted to HK$84.9 million – HK$11.74 million less than for the same period last year.

More cases this year involved con-artists posing as mainland officials, said chief inspector Wilson Tam Wai-shun of the Kowloon East regional crime unit.

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There were 182 cases related to “mainland officials” demanding money from victims, about 65 per cent of all cases reported. This was a roughly 20 per cent jump year-on-year and accounted for more than HK$80 million in losses.

Tam said 59 per cent of the victims falling prey to fake mainland officials were Hong Kong permanent residents, 31 per cent were students from the mainland and 10 per cent were new arrivals from the mainland.

Among the 156 victims of such scams in the first four months of this year, 56 per cent were less than 30 years old.

Tam said this could be because those in this age group, including many mainland students, were not well-informed about phone scams as they were busy with their studies or work and had not read news reports on previous cases or police warnings against such scams.

In a move to tackle the issue, Hong Kong police are reportedly setting up an anti-fraud coordination body to handle cases reported in different districts. The group may also work with local banks, Interpol and other related overseas organisations on a round-the-clock basis.

Police have also launched an “anti-telephone deception week” campaign, which started on Sunday and will run until Saturday.

Meanwhile, a 19-year-old student from the University of Science and Technology called police on Sunday saying he may have lost HK$6,000 that he had transferred to a mainland bank account. The student had been following instructions over the phone from a male stranger claiming to be from the mainland authorities.