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Scams and swindles

Phone scammers ‘use’ Hong Kong immigration’s emergency hotline to obtain personal information

Immigration Department remains mystified about nature of deception calls as no monetary losses have been reported

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 08 July, 2017, 7:08pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 31 August, 2017, 10:49pm

Phone scammers claiming to be Hong Kong immigration officers are using the department’s emergency hotline to obtain victims’ personal details in the latest version of phone deception.

The Immigration Department said on Friday that it had recently received public inquiries regarding incoming phone calls with the number 1868 – the 24-hour emergency hotline operated by the department to help local residents in distress overseas or for general inquiries.

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Scammers pretending to be immigration officers rang victims about “uncollected mail” from the department or stolen personal information.

“The caller claimed that the personal information of the call recipient had been stolen and asked him or her to provide further information for verification. All the fraudulent calls were pre-recorded messages,” the authority said in a statement.

A security source familiar with the matter said no monetary loss was reported among recipients, but did not rule out such cases in future.

“We are not sure how the conmen used the stolen personal information. They might use the data for future scams or blackmailing,” the source said.

The department received 75,323 calls on the 1868 number in the first half of this year, with 1,036 of them asking for urgent assistance on issues including lost travel documents and detention or imprisonment overseas.

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There were 159,525 calls in the whole of 2016 and 170,446 calls in 2015.

“The department will not transfer calls to other non-local authorities and will not ask the call recipient to provide information such as bank account numbers and passwords,” the statement continued, urging members of the public to verify the identity of a caller and not disclose personal information to others arbitrarily.