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Scams and swindles

Scammers cheat Hong Kong jobseekers out of HK$3 million, including trio offered fake gaming work

Three young victims went for bogus interviews and were told to hand over bank account details or bank cards as ‘surety’

PUBLISHED : Monday, 16 April, 2018, 11:56am
UPDATED : Monday, 16 April, 2018, 10:33pm

Con artists scammed about HK$3 million (US$382,000) out of their job-seeking victims in Hong Kong in the first quarter this year – almost three times as much money as for the whole of 2017 – with three youngsters who were offered bogus opportunities for paid online gaming among those falling prey.

At least 30 people lost about HK$3 million in total in job scams in the first three months. That compared with 43 victims and HK$1.13 million in 33 cases for all of 2017. In 2016, there were 46 victims in 29 cases, with the scammers making off with HK$1.58 million.

The Post learned that three Hongkongers, including a 20-year-old student, lost a total of about HK$30,000 to the new gaming scam after they answered job advertisements posted on social media platforms this year.

“The online advertisement claims it’s a high-paid job that does not require work experience or academic qualifications,” a police source said.

Almost 250 people in Hong Kong lose HK$1.9 million in WhatsApp scam

“The victims were told they would be paid about HK$100 an hour to play games online, and they could do it in their leisure time.”

The amount is almost three times the city’s statutory minimum wage.

Meetings were arranged in public places such as MTR stations or shopping centres. Potential victims were then taken to a fast-food restaurant or a park for a “job interview”.

“With the promise of employment, the victims were tricked into revealing their bank account information, such as their e-banking password, or even handing over their bank cards,” the source said, adding that applicants were told this was meant as a surety to help secure their jobs.

Victims later found their bank accounts had been emptied and they were unable to get back in touch with their “interviewer”.

Facebook scam: how not to fall for it

On March 26, two Hongkongers – a man, 19, and a woman, 26 – lodged police reports about being cheated out of a total of HK$840,000 in separate job scams.

Police said the victims responded to online advertisements and were promised employment opportunities. They were then persuaded to apply for loans with finance companies and to hand over the money as an “investment”.

The two sought help from police after failing to reach the interviewer.

Hongkongers warned of buying used goods on Facebook and other sites

In another case, police arrested three suspects on April 10 and 12 on suspicion of cheating 14 people out of HK$18,700. Job offers were posted on social media platforms recruiting people to produce paintings. The victims – 13 women and one man – were swindled after responding to the advertisement between October and January.

They were told to pay a membership fee and buy materials for work, but the so-called employers could not be contacted after. The victims made police reports in January.

Warnings posted on the police website caution the public not to pay any upfront fees “as this normally indicates something suspicious”. Jobseekers are warned to “be cautious of lucrative job offers that do not require any job-related skills”.

In Hong Kong, fraud carries a maximum penalty of 14 years in jail under the Theft Ordinance.