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Crime in Hong Kong

Three held in Hong Kong as 8 customers lose HK$650,000 in online milk powder scam

Woman, 26, her boyfriend, 27, and brother, 18, are thought to have taken payments for the products but never sent them to the buyers

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 March, 2018, 5:17pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 March, 2018, 5:38pm

Three Hongkongers including two siblings were arrested in Kowloon on Thursday on suspicion of cheating eight people out of HK$650,000 (US$83,300) in an online shopping scam involving baby milk formula.

A woman, 26, her boyfriend, 27, and brother, 18, were thought to have taken payments for the products, but never sent them to the buyers, according to police.

The three suspects were picked up when officers raided a public housing flat in Tsz Lok Estate, Tsz Wan Shan, on Thursday morning.

Chief Inspector Tsang Ting-pan said the unemployed female suspect was suspected of having posed as a nurse and sold milk powder on the internet since August last year.

“To attract buyers, the consumers were told the price of the milk powder was below the market rate,” he said.

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Buyers were instructed to pay through three designated bank accounts. After they deposited the money, the goods were not delivered and they could not get in touch with the seller.

Tsang said that between August and December, eight people got taken in by the scam and lost HK$650,000 in total.

Police began investigating after receiving complaints from buyers late last year.

Officers seized bank documents, four mobile phones, a tablet computer and a desktop computer during the raid but no milk powder was found.

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The three suspects were arrested on suspicion of obtaining property by deception, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.

They were being held for questioning and had not been charged.

Tsang advised consumers to stay alert and verify sellers when shopping online.

According to official statistics, police handled 1,562 reports of online shopping scams last year, involving HK$17.8 million. Scammers bagged HK$12.9 million in 1,188 cases in 2016.