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Scams and swindles

Hongkongers warned of buying used goods on Facebook and other sites

People need to remain vigilant after fraudsters target second-hand market to scam people out of thousands of dollars online

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 28 February, 2018, 4:09pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 28 February, 2018, 10:20pm

Hong Kong police have warned residents to be wary of used goods bought on websites like Facebook, saying that deals that look too good to be true probably are.

Officers have been investigating an online scam that takes advantage of Hongkongers’ support for environmental friendliness by selling second-hand home appliances that were never delivered.

The new con came to the force’s attention this month after officers discovered fraudsters targeting social media forums that promote used goods for sale.

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Police said buyers were instructed to pay the deposit via mobile electronic payment platform.

“To win their trust, fraudsters also claimed that transport would be arranged for the delivery. However, no sooner was the deposit collected, than the fraudsters disappeared without a trace,” police said on their website.

To win their trust, fraudsters also claimed that transport would be arranged for the delivery

Several victims have fallen for the scam and lost thousands of dollars.

The fraud prompted the force’s Anti-Deception Coordination Centre to issue an alert on Tuesday about the fraud.

To guard against the scam, the force advised consumers to stay alert during online shopping.

“Do not deposit money into strangers’ accounts including those that are mobile electronic,” police said. “If in doubt, call the anti-scam helpline, 18222.”

Two weeks ago, officers from the force’s Cyber Security and Technology Crime Bureau smashed two syndicates that cheated 71 consumers out of HK$800,000 (US$102,000) in online shopping. The victims made payments but the goods were never delivered. The products included smartphones, sports shoes and laptop computers.

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Ten Hongkongers – seven men and three women – from the two gangs were arrested in a series of raids between February 5 and 7. All suspects were released on bail pending further investigation.

Hong Kong police handled 1,321 reports of online shopping scams in the first 10 months of last year, involving the losses of nearly HK$11 million.

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Scammers bagged HK$12.9 million in 1,188 cases in the whole of 2016. Police handled 1,354 cases in 2015 involving the losses of HK$13.8 million.

The Anti-Deception Coordination Centre began operating in July and has dealt with more than 14,000 calls to its 24-hour inquiry hotline, preventing 57 callers from falling for scams.