Scammers posing as mainland security officials are using the mobile instant messaging platform WeChat rather than phone calls to cheat victims in a new ruse that has prompted Hong Kong police to issue a warning for the public to stay alert. The latest scam alert was posted on the force’s website and Facebook page after the anti-fraud centre in Guangdong province recently notified police in Macau about the new tactic. Hong Kong university student loses HK$220,000 in phone scam Con artists set up a WeChat account under the name of “police investigators” or “prosecutors” and sent an “add new friend” request to their targets. According to police, fraudsters then contacted victims via recorded voice messages through WeChat instead of calling. Victims were instructed to turn on their mobile’s call-forwarding function and transfer calls to a designated number – under the excuse of avoiding interference during investigations and to record conversations – and they were also asked to deactivate their phone’s SMS function. “So victims are unable to receive phone calls or text messages and have less opportunity to contact families and friends – who may remind them about scams,” police said on their website. A police source said: “In the end, victims are accused of being involved in a criminal case and instructed to transfer money to bank accounts as a surety during an investigation.” Here are the two key reasons people keep falling for phone scams in Hong Kong Police in Hong Kong, Macau and mainland China would not use recorded voice calls for investigations, the force said. “If in doubt, please call the Anti-Scam Helpline 18222,” police said on their website. However, Hong Kong police said on Facebook that the force had not received reports of such a scam in the city. In November, swindlers pretending to be employees of China Mobile Hong Kong duped nine people out of more than HK$800,000. The scam prompted China Mobile Hong Kong to post an urgent reminder on its website. Hong Kong’s new police anti-fraud squad freezes HK$99 million in scammers’ accounts in just five months In the first nine months of last year, police handled 496 phone scam cases in which fraudsters posed as mainland officials and bagged HK$157 million. There were 359 cases with losses totalling HK$140 million in the same period of 2016. In the whole of 2016, 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, involving HK$292 million. The largest phone scam in the city was in March 2016 when a businessman was cheated out of HK$58 million . From street con-artists to phone fraud: A history of Hong Kong scams … and how to avoid becoming another victim According to police, phone scammers typically posed as mainland security officials and accused victims of breaking the law. They then asked for money as a surety or used other excuses. Official statistics showed police handled 5,879 reports of deception in the first 10 month of 2017, down 2.7 per cent compared with the figure in the same period of 2016.