Dedicated Hong Kong police unit set up to handle phone scams
Police also reveal new tactic whereby conman dupes employee into thinking he is firm’s chief executive and instructs him to make a big money transfer out of the city
A new police unit has begun work in the wake of deceptions that have cost the public over HK$580 million so far this year.
The anti-fraud coordination unit, which started work on Thursday, was set up in response to the 760 reports of phone and email scams in the first six months.
As police recover less than 10 per cent of monetary losses in such scams, police said the unit would enhance cooperation with banks and law enforcement agencies both at home and abroad.
It would attempt to retrieve money and stop it being moved around the world.
With the overall city crime rate on a downward trend, the total number of deception cases rose by 6 per cent to 3,561 in the first six months, compared with 3,368 in the same period last year.
“It is not a phenomenon that can only be found in Hong Kong. This is a regional as well as a global trend,” Chief Superintendent Lawrence Wong Ying-wai of the commercial crime bureau said. “It’s a common topic among law enforcement agencies in the world. We try to work together to tackle the same problem.”
Superintendent Andy Chan Tin-chu, who heads the unit, said it would formulate strategies, collect intelligence, carry out coordination work, offer support and launch publicity campaigns.
He said the centre was running a 24-hour helpline, 18222, to answer inquiries, but victims would have to make a report separately to police in person.
A text message was sent out to the public on Thursday night giving details of the new unit.
Meanwhile, police revealed another tactic used by telephone scammers to cheat a senior executive of a logistics firm out of HK$16 million.
“A con artist spoofed the number of an incoming call to be that of the company’s chief executive and then instructed the victim to transfer the money into a bank account outside Hong Kong,” Superintendent Chim Tak-ming of Kowloon East regional crime unit said.
He said the money was funnelled into other accounts within hours of it being transferred. .
It was among the 443 reports of phone scams in the first six months, an 8 per cent rise on the 410 in the same period last year. More than 60 per cent of cases involved bogus mainland officials.
Chim said the amounts involved in such scams rose by about 37 per cent to HK$147 million in the first six months from nearly HK$107 million in the same period last year.
The biggest deception case this year involved HK$52 million swindled from an Italian car firm in a commercial email scam.
The crook, pretending to be the company’s chief executive in Italy, deceived an accountant in its United States office to transfer US$6.7 million into a bank account in Hong Kong in January.
A police source said the money was moved into several accounts in the city before being transferred into mainland accounts.
The Italian firm sought the help of Hong Kong police in March.