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Scams and swindles

Hong Kong university student loses HK$220,000 in phone scam

Security minister John Lee Ka-chiu says number of such cases dropped 10 per cent in first 10 months of the year, though amount swindled increased

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 28 November, 2017, 9:45am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 29 November, 2017, 12:10am

An 18-year-old university student from Taiwan has become one of Hong Kong’s latest phone scam victims, police revealed on Monday, after she was conned out of HK$220,000 (US$28,200).

The matter came to light as Hong Kong’s security minister said phone scammers had been responsible for HK$200 million in losses in the first 10 months of this year.

In this case, the scammers posed as workers from China Mobile. They contacted the Chinese University student, telling her that her phone number had been linked to a criminal case.

“The line was then transferred to a man claiming to be a law enforcement officer from the mainland. He requested that the student transfer money to a mainland bank account for investigation purposes,” a police spokesman said on Monday.

Hong Kong student arrested in connection with HK$11.7 million phone scam

The student, who lives in a campus hall of residence, realised she had been cheated after transferring the money and called police shortly before 9pm on Monday.

The force has repeatedly warned members of the public, especially newcomers to the city, about phone scams in recent years.

This case was one of nine similar incidents involving “China Mobile workers”, who conned nine victims out of more than HK$800,000 in a week.

The victims included seven mainland students in Hong Kong and two new comers.

Security minister John Lee Ka-chiu said on Monday that the number of cases related to phone deception had dropped 10 per cent in the first 10 months of this year to 803, but the financial losses had increased. According to Lee, 70 per cent of the cases involved bogus government officials. Police have arrested 11 people in connection with 29 cases.

“One should report suspected phone scams to police immediately so that officers can intercept the money [ …] at once,” Lee said.

Here are the two key reasons people keep falling for phone scams in Hong Kong

The biggest case recorded this year involved about HK$31 million. In May, a 52-year-old chief financial officer of a multinational company received a call from someone posing as the company’s CEO. She was told to transfer US$3.98 million (HK$31 million) to a mainland Chinese bank account. The victim realised she had been scammed when she spoke to the real CEO. Police froze about HK$20 million in the culprit’s bank account.

Meanwhile, a new police anti-scam unit has handled more than 9,000 calls in the past four months. The Anti-Deception Coordination Centre, set up under the Commercial Crime Bureau, pools police resources to handle scam cases and runs a 24-hour inquiry hotline at 18222.

The centre has helped freeze more than HK$98 million in scammers’ bank accounts in 85 cases.