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Scams and swindles

China Mobile Hong Kong issues warning as fraudsters cheat customers of HK$800,000 by posing as staff

Victims received pre-recorded calls stating that their phone usage had become abnormal and services would be suspended

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 29 November, 2017, 3:57pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 29 November, 2017, 10:51pm

China Mobile Hong Kong, one of the city’s largest mobile network operators, has issued an urgent anti-fraud warning to its customers in wake of a new scam by con artists posing as the company’s employees.

Fraudsters pretending to be China Mobile staff duped nine people out of more than HK$800,000 (US$102,500) between November 21 and 27. The victims comprised seven mainland students in Hong Kong and two newcomers.

Pre-recorded voice calls were made to members of the public, who were told the callers were from China Mobile Hong Kong.

“Recipients were advised that their phone usage had become abnormal, and their mobile phone services would be ceased. They were instructed to press a button to make an inquiry,” a police source said. The calls were then transferred to scammers who posed as law enforcement officers from the mainland.

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“Victims were told their phone numbers were linked to criminal cases. They were instructed to transfer money to mainland bank accounts as a surety during the investigation,” the source said.

The scam prompted China Mobile Hong Kong to post an urgent reminder on its website.

“We learned that some customers had received suspected scam calls purportedly from us, claiming their usage had been abnormal and that their mobile services would be temporarily suspended due to various reasons such as arrears, anomalies or spamming,” the notice said.

“Customers were then immediately transferred to fraudsters asking for personal information and transfer of funds.”

The company said its staff would not call customers to request personal information or fund transfers.

“If in doubt, please contact our customer service department at 2945 8888 to verify our staff’s identity, or call the police Anti-Deception Coordination Centre’s ‘Anti-Scam Helpline 18222’,” it said. “Be vigilant, beware of frauds.”

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In the first nine months of this year, police handled 496 phone scam cases in which fraudsters posed as Hong Kong or mainland officials and bagged HK$157 million. There were 359 cases involving losses totalling HK$140 million in the same period last year.

In the whole of last year, police handled 656 phone scam cases involving HK$203 million in losses. Of those attempts, 436 were successful.

In 2015, 1,423 phone scam cases were reported involving HK$292 million in losses, of which 561 were successful.

The largest scam took place in March last year, when a businessman was cheated out of HK$58 million.