Despite awareness campaign, more than 400 people have fallen victim this year There has been a dramatic increase in the number of telephone scams, with more than 400 mostly elderly people already falling victim this year, police warned yesterday. In the first nine months, police received 1,246 complaints, compared with 780 for the whole of last year, and an annual average of 300 between 2002 and 2004. The amount of money lost in the scams rose to HK$18.22 million from last year's total of HK$16.72 million. Although the victims ranged from teenagers to the elderly, the latter appeared to be the swindlers' primary target, police said. Of 429 victims identified this year, police records show 306 - or 71 per cent - were 50 or over. 'Fraudsters often take advantage of elderly people's inadequate wariness against scams and their deep concern about family members,' said Kevan Cooper, police regional commander of Kowloon East. In telephone deception cases, police said, fraudsters usually pretended to be the victims' children in need of money. They also often say their children are in debt and ask the victims to deposit a large sum of money into a bank account. 'The number of such cases is rising, partly because it's very easy for people to make phone calls, but quite hard for police to collect crime evidence,' said Mr Cooper. He added, however, that telephone swindlers should have found their tactics becoming increasingly useless as more people expose the frauds. Of the cases reported to police this year, about 66 per cent were exposed, compared with 58 per cent last year. Jim Ho, 72, was one victim who exposed a scam. In July, a man phoned asking him to pay a debt of HK$100,000 for his son, while another voice on the phone yelled: 'Save me, dad.' 'I felt it was suspicious, as the way my son called me was very different from that man on the phone. I told myself to be calm and talked to other family members immediately,' he said. Mr Ho called police as soon as he found his son was safe. Police said people should be wary of anyone demanding money over the phone and never put money into strangers' accounts. On receiving a suspect call, people should call police. Mr Cooper said police would come up with more ideas to get the message across to the public, especially the elderly. Legislative Council security panel chairman James To Kun-sun said police should study better ways to increase awareness of phone scams among the elderly. He said the surging number of cases showed a portion of the elderly were still being victimised. 'I know [police] have been doing adverts on TV and radio but have they studied whether they have infiltrated and made an impact on everyone in the elderly community?' Mr To said. He suggested police ask those with regular contact with the elderly to talk to them about the issue.