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Scams and swindles

More than 300 men blackmailed by fraudsters posing as women on dating apps in Hong Kong

Teachers, doctors, lawyers, students and government employees among those who lost more than HK$10 million in dating scams in first nine months of year

PUBLISHED : Friday, 24 November, 2017, 8:00pm
UPDATED : Friday, 24 November, 2017, 11:33pm

Con artists behind an international fraud syndicate preying on men seeking compensated dating on mobile apps have sparked a joint probe from Hong Kong police and overseas law enforcers, the Post has learned.

In Hong Kong, teachers, doctors, lawyers, students and government employees were among 347 men who had fallen into the trap and lost HK$11.4 million in bogus compensated dating scams in the first nine months of this year, according to police. The worst case saw a man duped out of HK$870,000 in more than 10 transactions in a month.

Last year, there were more than 700 cases involving losses of more than HK$15 million.

Most of the victims were lured into revealing personal information before swindlers extorted them by threatening to tell their families they had sought sex services, one police source said.

The Post was told the true numbers may be considerably higher as some victims may not have reported incidents to the police.

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The syndicate, based in an Asian country, was understood to have been in operation for about six months and controlled by a gang of men who pose as female university students or young office workers and search for targets using mobile dating apps.

“Fraudsters usually claim they are visa students or office workers from Japan, South Korea or mainland China and befriend targets before revealing they also work as part-time compensated dating girls to earn pocket money,” one police source said.

“It is likely they search for photographs of young good-looking Asian women on the internet and create their fake profiles with the photos to cheat [their victims].”

He said swindlers invented different excuses to persuade targets to reveal personal information before extorting them.

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“Victims are asked to send a copy of their identification document and a photograph to prove they are not undercover police officers,” he said.

“Scammers then extort their victims by threatening to reveal their demand for sexual services to family members or post their personal information on the internet.”

According to police, no one showed up to meet the victims during the scams and the sex service did not exist.

“To escape detection, victims are asked to buy online game token cards and to reveal the passwords to swindlers who cash in by selling the cards,” the source said.

He said each victim could lose anywhere from a few hundred dollars to hundreds of thousands dollars in such scams.

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According to police, fake compensated dating scams surfaced in Hong Kong several years ago. The reports of such crimes dropped sharply after Hong Kong police teamed up with their

Asian counterparts to break up another syndicate with the arrest of scores of swindlers earlier this year.

However, the figure soared in recent months after the new syndicate came into operation.

As this gang is targeting male sex seekers in Hong Kong and Asian countries, local police have sought help from overseas law enforcement agencies to find its operational base and track down its ringleaders and core figures.

To guard against such social media deception, police advise the public to “remember to be cautious when making friends via social media, and remain vigilant at all times”.