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Scams and swindles

Would the real James Tien please stand up? Former Hong Kong lawmaker has pictures stolen for seven fake Facebook accounts, and the latest one makes him Nigerian

An oil rig worker, a private contractor in California, and a man with an African background – pictures of Manhattan Group chairman have been used on profiles for all

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 03 October, 2018, 9:30pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 04 October, 2018, 9:37am

Former Hong Kong lawmaker James Tien Pei-chun has been many people over the years.

He’s been “George Gavino”, who studied at the University of Liverpool; he has been Tai Wing Keung, a private contractor living in Ontario, California; and he has been an offshore oil rig worker called Chang Lin Ryan.

In all, Tien’s face has appeared on seven other Facebook profiles – and he did not create any of them.

The latest, in the name of Allen Zhong, was discovered on Tuesday, and used a selfie Tien took in Hokkaido, Japan, in April. He’s also been George Tien, Dee Stanley, and Bojing Cheung.

In every profile, Tien is listed as single, which probably comes as surprise to his wife and children.

The fact Zhong has more than 400 friends, most of whom are women, would suggest the accounts are being used for one of the many online romance scams plaguing the city. The account identifies Zhong as “that Igala boy”, a reference to an ethnic group in Nigeria.

Not that Tien thinks fake accounts using his picture will have been used for that purpose.

“I don’t think using my photo as profile picture will make an account popular immediately,” he said.

“But from another perspective, it might show that I am a popular public figure in Hong Kong.”

Online romance scam record as Wan Chai businesswoman loses US$23 million

Online romance scams conned 338 people in Hong Kong out of a total of HK$168.8 million (US$22 million) in the first seven months of this year.

The number was a significant rise on the 90 cases in the same period last year, which involved HK$41.7 million. More than 90 per cent of the victims were female.

In two of the cases smashed in 2016 and last year, nearly HK$90 million was duped out of more than 120 Hong Kong women by syndicates masterminded by ringleaders from Nigeria.

“This case [Zhong] is a bit special because its information is associated with Nigeria, whereas in the previous cases, the accounts are registered in Hong Kong,” Tien said.

But Tien said he did not immediately associate the account with one of these scams, and had not called police over any of the fake accounts, preferring to just contact Facebook.

“I didn’t call the police because there was no evidence that the account had committed any crime,” he said.

A spokeswoman of Facebook said profiles that impersonated other people would be removed, as users were required not to use others’ images with the explicit aim to deceive people.

Tien dismissed concerns surrounding the security of his account, but admitted he was “somewhat unhappy” seeing his photos stolen and used by strangers.

Online scammers only love your money

Tien is the former chairman and leader of the Liberal Party as well as the scion of clothing tycoon Francis Tien Yuan-hao. The economic-political elite is the chairman of the Manhattan Group, a real estate developing company transformed from the garment firm founded by his father.

“Having photos posted online stolen and used by someone else is different from falling into an online love scam,” Tien said.

“How could you agree to give money to someone you only knew from the internet and had never met in real life?”