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Scams and swindles

Three men arrested over Hong Kong loan scams as police raid Tsim Sha Tsui offices

Police swoop on premises of financial intermediary firm just in time to save 56-year-old woman from parting with over half a million dollars

PUBLISHED : Friday, 19 January, 2018, 8:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 19 January, 2018, 8:00am

Three men running a financial intermediary company in Hong Kong have been arrested for allegedly luring people into applying for loans and then cheating them out of the money they borrowed.

The trio, all from Hong Kong, were picked up when officers from the police force’s commercial crime bureau raided an office on Cameron Road in Tsim Sha Tsui on Wednesday.

During the raid officers were able to save a 56-year-old woman from being conned. She was all set to hand over HK$400,000 in cash and a cheque for a further HK$200,000 before police intervened.

The three suspects, aged between 35 and 37, were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud. They were being held for questioning on Thursday night but none had been charged.

Officers were investigating how many victims had fallen for their scam and how much money was involved, and a police spokesman said it was possible further arrests would be made.

He said the gang had made cold calls to potential victims telling them their company could help with mortgage applications and securing other loans.

“The victims had to pay a handling fee before their loan applications proceeded,” the police spokesman said. “After securing the loans from banks or finance companies, the fraudsters then lured the victims into handing over more money using various excuses.”

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The victims realised they had been scammed when they lost contact with the company.

Expressing concern about such illegal financial intermediaries, police on Thursday warned borrowers to apply for loans from banks and other reputable licensed money lenders.

“Don’t easily believe adverts with claims such as ‘no income proof needed and fast approval’, the spokesman said. He asked Hongkongers to steer clear of loan sharking syndicates and illegal financial intermediaries.

Anyone with doubts about a lender could call the police anti-deception coordination centre’s 24-hour hotline on 18222, he said.

According to official statistics, police handled 5,879 reports of deception in the first 10 months of 2017, down 2.7 per cent compared with the 6,044 cases in the same period of 2016.