Phone scammers’ HK$140 million haul takes gloss off Hong Kong’s crime figures

Victims cheated out of HK$140 million in 443 deceptions, but the overall picture is positive with the number of offences at a 38-year low

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 27 July, 2017, 7:30am
UPDATED : Thursday, 27 July, 2017, 4:54pm

Phone scammers made off with HK$140 million in the first half of this year alone, and the trend was worsening, police statistics suggested.

The average number of scams reported daily averaged 2.4 between January and June but then shot up to 5.4 in July, prompting the force to fight back by setting up a special task force.

The numbers were revealed in the police’s mid-year review of Hong Kong’s crime situation. Deception cases rose 5.7 per cent year-on-year to 3,561.

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Some HK$140 million was swindled in 443 phone scams, with each victim losing an average of HK$316,000.

Sonny Au Chi-kwong, director of crime and security, said scammers impersonating government officials remained a popular tactic.

“If you are unsure about the call, just hang up,” he said in urging the public to be on the alert.

The Anti-Deception Coordination Centre was set up on July 20, rolling out a 24-hour hotline, 18222, to answer inquiries from the public.

Au said the centre had so far stopped four cases of deception and prevented HK$800,000 from reaching swindlers.

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The overall picture continued to improve, with a total of 28,309 crimes recorded in the first six months, a drop of 4.2 per cent compared with the same period last year and a 38-year low.

Most crimes have shown a downward trend – the number of robberies and burglaries dropped by 35.7 and 18.9 per cent respectively. But the shining report card was blotted in a few areas, with rapes, indecent assaults and car thefts rising.

Director of operations Chris Tang Ping-keung also recapped on the massive three-day security operation during President Xi Jinping’s visit during celebrations to mark the 20th anniversary of the city’s return to Chinese rule.

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During 84 public events, 58 people were arrested while there were three complaints against police.

As for the force’s discipline, 13 officers were arrested in the first half of the year. Seven involved criminal charges, three were not criminal in nature while the others were detained by the Independent Commission Against Corruption.

Twenty-three officers were summoned for disciplinary hearings, up from 15 last year. Twelve were penalised. Four more were sacked for committing crimes.