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Scams and swindles

Hong Kong student duped out of HK$5 million in phone scam

University of Science and Technology student, from the mainland, told police she received call informing her she was involved in criminal investigation

PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 June, 2017, 12:56pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 31 August, 2017, 10:49pm

A university student from the mainland has become Hong Kong’s worst victim among dozens of students swindled in phone scams, after a bogus mainland official duped her out of 4.4 million yuan (HK$5 million).

The University of Science and Technology student, 24, told police that she transferred the money to her mainland bank account in 11 transactions between December and earlier this month before it was withdrawn by the con artist, a police source said on Monday.

The woman, surnamed Yang, went to Tseung Kwan O police station and filed a report at about 5pm on Sunday after she realised she had been swindled, according to police.

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She told officers that she received a call in December from a man claiming to work for a logistics company, who said a parcel that had been sent to her contained restricted items, and she was now accused of being involved in a criminal case.

“He then transferred the call to another man who claimed to be an officer from Guangzhou’s public security department, who instructed her to go to Shenzhen, open a bank account there and transfer money into it,” the source said.

As instructed, the victim transferred 4.4 million yuan in total into the mainland bank account in 11 transactions between December and June. She realised she had been cheated after she found the money had been withdrawn.

The source said it was possible the bogus mainland policeman had stolen the victim’s online password and transferred all of the money out of her account.

The case came to light about three weeks after Hong Kong police launched an “anti-telephone deception week” campaign.

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In the first four months of this year, telephone con artists posing as bogus mainland officials cheated 156 victims out of more than HK$80 million.

According to police, 59 per cent of the victims were Hong Kong permanent residents, 31 per cent were students from the mainland and 10 per cent were new arrivals from the mainland. Among the 156 victims, 56 per cent were younger than 30.

Chief Inspector Wilson Tam Wai-shun of Kowloon East regional crime unit said in the anti-deception campaign last month that this could be because those in this age group, including many mainland students, were not well-informed about phone scams as they were busy with their studies or work and had not read news reports on previous cases or police warnings.

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Last year, police handled 656 phone scam cases involving fraudsters posing as mainland officials, in which victims lost a total of HK$203 million. In 2015, there were 1,423 such cases bagging HK$292 million.

The largest loss ever recorded in the city for a phone scam came in March last year, when a businessman from Yuen Long was cheated out of HK$58 million.

Typically, scammers call victims and tell them a parcel they mailed has violated mainland laws before transferring them to someone claiming to be a mainland official. The victim is then instructed to prove their willingness to cooperate by transferring money to a mainland bank account.

Local police said mainland law enforcement officials would never ask someone to hand over money to prove their innocence or ask them to provide online banking passwords over the phone or via the internet.