Mainland student in Hong Kong duped into giving her WeChat details, family hit with HK$755,000 fake kidnap claim

Victim told to deposit money in mainland account and avoid contact with family and friends

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 02 August, 2017, 4:20pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 02 August, 2017, 6:16pm

Phone scammers duped a university student from the mainland out of HK$755,000 in Hong Kong and then tried to trick victim’s father in Liaoning province out of an additional one million yuan (HK$1.16 million) by claiming his daughter had been kidnapped.

The swindlers even posted fake nude photographs of the 23-year-old Baptist University student to an online group using her WeChat account after her father did not pay up, a police source said.

The abduction claim sparked a citywide police search for the victim, who had been instructed by the con artists to turn off her phone and avoid contact with her parents and friends. She was found safe almost 24 hours later in a shopping mall in Sha Tin.

The Sha Tin resident told police she had received a call from a man claiming to be a Hong Kong immigration officer last Wednesday. He accused her of breaking mainland laws. The call was then transferred to another man, who claimed he was a security official from Shanghai. He accused her of being involved in a criminal case and asked her to transfer money into her mainland bank account as a surety.

Phone scammers cheat Hong Kong woman, 23, of parents’ HK$1 million life savings with fake arrest warrant

According to police, the victim was directed to a website showing a bogus arrest warrant for her. She was also asked to surrender her bank account details over the phone.

As instructed, the student went to Shenzhen to transfer 650,000 yuan (HK$755,000) into her bank account before returning to the city.

On Monday morning, she received another call from the fake mainland policeman.

“She was instructed not to return home, contact anyone or trust any information. She was also asked to hide in a remote place, ” the source said. The bogus officer also told her to surrender the details of her WeChat account.

On the same day, the scammers logged into her WeChat account, contacted her father and sent him a fake photograph of his daughter.

“Her father was told over the phone that his daughter had been abducted. He was asked to pay one million yuan for her release,” the source said.

Instead of paying up, the father, who was in Liaoning at the time, contacted one of the victim’s friends in the city, who failed to find her and called police at about lunchtime on Monday.

Before noon on Tuesday, the woman was found safe in a shopping mall near her home.

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

Though her father did not pay the scammers, 650,000 yuan had been withdrawn from the victim’s bank account, according to police.

Another source said such tactics were not new, and that a similar incident had taken place last month, with a local family losing tens of thousand of dollars.

In the first six months of this year, phone scammers posing as mainland officials cheated 293 victims out of HK$109.6 million. There were 176 cases involving HK$98.1 million in the same period last year.

Last year, police handled 656 phone scam cases involving fraudsters posing as mainland officials, in which victims lost a total of HK$203 million. In 2015, there were 1,423 such cases, involving HK$292 million.

The largest loss ever recorded in the city for a phone scam came in March last year, when a businessman from Yuen Long was cheated out of HK$58 million.

Despite the city’s overall crime rate being on a downward trend in recent years, the number of deception cases rose 5.7 per cent year on year to 3,561 in the first six months of this year, prompting the force to set up an anti-deception coordination centre last month.