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Scams and swindles

Are Hongkongers finally learning their lesson when it comes to phone scams? Amount lost down a whopping HK$73 million

But police issue fresh ‘missed calls’ warning as they reveal 98 victims lost HK$6.18 million in first four months of the year

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 10 June, 2018, 10:56pm
UPDATED : Monday, 11 June, 2018, 5:22pm

New figures suggest Hongkongers are finally learning their lesson when it comes to phone scams, with victims losing HK$6.18 million (US$788,000) in the first four months of the year – down a whopping HK$72.54 million on the same period in 2017.

And between July 2017 and April this year, the police Anti-Deception Coordination Centre received 18,515 calls for help and foiled 209 phone scam plots, preventing HK$337 million being funnelled out of victims’ accounts.

So far in 2018, Hong Kong police have received 119 reports of scams, down from 279 in the same period last year.

The figures surrounding phone crime stand in stark contrast to other types of fraud. Several high-profile examples have emerged of Hongkongers falling victim to a variety of online scams. Last month, the Post revealed details of two online love scams that saw one Hong Kong woman lose HK$26.4 million to a man pretending to be a financial analyst in Malaysia, and another HK$14 million to a man she never met.

The anti-deception centre, which began operating last July, has since managed to halt payments totalling HK$2.2 billion. But they could not stop con artists duping the city’s consumers out of HK$12.5 million in online shopping scams in the first four months of this year.

Of this year’s reported phone scams, about 35 per cent of victims were aged 61 to 80, with 90.2 per cent housewives and retirees. Female victims were again in the majority, at 58 per cent, but down from 68 per cent last year.

5 Malaysians and 3 Hongkongers arrested over investment scams which conned HK$58 million with promises of great returns on rice

Common tactics involve people claiming to be officials on the mainland and asking for money; or pretending to be a victim’s friend or relative to gain their trust and asking for money; or claiming the victim’s children are in trouble on the mainland and need money.

Of the three, pretending to be a friend or relative was the most common, with 77 people falling victim to the scam in the first four months of the year. Fake officials came next with 39 cases, while there were three cases of con artists pretending a son was in trouble on the mainland.

Meanwhile, police have warned Hongkongers to beware of a rampant global “missed call” scam, after receiving about 140 inquiries from people who had questions about international calls from unknown numbers.

The scam, known as “wangiri” after a Japanese word which loosely translates to “one ring and cut”, involves routing callers to expensive premium rate numbers – such as those used in the United States for psychic reading or sex hotlines – where scammers then do what they can to keep people on the line as they rack up exorbitant call charges.

Chinese diaspora in US, Canada and Australia new targets for phone scammers claiming to be mainland diplomats, Hong Kong police say

There has been no report of victims in the city to date besides the inquiries made to the centre, Kowloon East Chief Inspector Wilson Tam Wai-shun said.

Tam said reports from other regions showed fraudsters might be using caller ID spoofing technologies to make it appear the calls were originating in countries such as Uganda (+256), Tonga (+676), Nauru (+674) and Vanuatu (+678).

“Do not arbitrarily return missed calls from abroad with caller IDs you’re not familiar with,” Tam warned. “Once you make the calls, you might have to suffer huge financial losses.”