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Scams and swindles

Two months, 200 cases, and HK$60 million saved: Hong Kong police fight fraud with anti-scam unit

Anti-deception Coordination Centre, launched two months ago, collects intelligence and gathers resources to tackle growing problem

PUBLISHED : Friday, 22 September, 2017, 3:48pm
UPDATED : Friday, 22 September, 2017, 11:38pm

A new and covert anti-scamming unit in Hong Kong has tackled 200 fraud complaints involving HK$400 million and smashed a transnational case, just two months after police set it up to tackle the growing menace of online and phone rackets.

In the transnational case, the unit saved an American company HK$24 million in potential losses, and in total, it has stopped HK$60 million from being siphoned off by con men.

On Friday, Superintendent Andy Chan Tin-chu, head of the Anti-deception Coordination Centre, said his team had foiled 50 scams in the past two months, halting payments to local and international fraudsters.

“Since July 20, we have successfully thwarted about 50 payments amounting to more than HK$60 million that could have been collected by scammers,” Chan said.

The types of deception included e-commerce and phone scams, and some requests involved people who fell for the traps and already paid up the money, he said.

The biggest case was an e-commerce scam that involved about HK$24 million.

An American company was cheated by an email scammer who pretended to be a business partner, deceiving the firm into transferring money to a Hong Kong bank account.

After receiving the call, local police contacted the bank involved and within 24 hours, stopped the funds from being retrieved by the con artist.

The centre, set up under the Commercial Crime Bureau, pools police resources to handle scam cases and runs a 24-hour inquiry hotline – 18222.

Hong Kong businessman cheated out of record HK$58m in phone scam

It also formulates strategies, collects intelligence, carries out coordination work, offers support and organises awareness campaigns.

Bureau Chief Superintendent Lawrence Wong Ying-wai said the centre had so far handled more than 5,400 calls.

He said transnational scams were a challenge to local police as well as law enforcement agencies around the world.

Despite the city’s overall crime rate being on a downward trend in recent years, the number of deception cases rose 5.1 per cent year on year to 4,210 in the first seven months of this year.

Among the 4,210 reports, 254 victims were duped out of HK$109 million by phone scammers who posed as mainland security officials. There were 176 cases involving a total of HK$98.1 million in the same period last year.

In total last year, police handled 656 phone scam cases amounting to HK$203 million in losses. 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.

According to police, phone scammers typically pose as mainland security officials and accuse victims of breaking the law. They then demand large amounts of money to settle the case.

Police said mainland law enforcers would never ask someone to hand over money to prove their innocence or request for their online banking passwords over the phone or through the internet.