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Scams and swindles

Hong Kong scam victim sends HK$5.9 million to mainland Chinese bank account in latest con by ‘law enforcement officers’

  • Another city resident falls prey to fraudsters posing as people in positions of authority across the border
PUBLISHED : Sunday, 16 December, 2018, 1:30pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 16 December, 2018, 11:07pm

A 24-year-old harmonica world champion from Hong Kong has become the latest victim of a growing spate of phone scams in Hong Kong after being swindled out of nearly HK$6 million (US$767,800) by con men posing as law enforcement officers.

A police insider confirmed that the victim is Leo Ho Cheuk-yin, a chromatic harmonica player who twice won the Solo World Champion at the World Harmonica Festival in 2009 and 2013.

Ho took the money from his own and parents’ pockets, according to the police source. Both of his parents work as doctors.

Ho said he received a phone call from two people claiming to be law enforcement who told him he had committed a criminal offence. A third man later instructed him to transfer money to a mainland Chinese bank account to “assist with the investigation”.

After making multiple payments, the victim became suspicious and reported the case to Hong Kong police on Saturday night.

But by then he had already been duped into transferring about HK$5.9 million.

Police were on Sunday searching for at least three men involved in the scam, the force said, but no arrests had been made.

Ho, an appointee to the government’s Youth Development Commission, thanked those who had expressed concern and said that, although the money was lost, there were still people supporting him and he was “very fortunate”.

“I buried my head in music day and night and did not realise how sinister the world was. I fell for the swindlers’ elaborate scheme and blame myself,” he wrote in a Facebook post, adding that he still believed in “sincerity, justice and love”.

The case is far from an isolated one. A total of 59 Hongkongers were duped out of HK$4.7 million in similar scams in the first half of this year.

Hong Kong men swindled out of nearly US$2.56 million in honeypot scams this year

Between July and October, the number of victims and the amount of money lost were well above figures reported for the first six months of the year.

The bulk fall prey to fraudsters impersonating officials from across the border who request transfers to bank accounts on the pretence their targets have been involved in some sort of criminal case.

The city’s biggest telephone deception case saw a 52-year-old Yuen Long resident conned out of more than HK$58 million in 2016.

Under the Theft Ordinance, obtaining property by deception carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in jail.