Hong Kong phone scam cases drop in first quarter but losses quadruple to HK$789 million, with more mainland Chinese students among victims

Hong Kong phone scam cases drop in first quarter but losses quadruple to HK$789 million, with more mainland Chinese students among victims

The number of phone scam cases in Hong Kong dropped in the first quarter compared with the same period last year although losses quadrupled to HK$789 million (US$101 million), with more mainland Chinese students in the city falling victim.

Police said the city logged 21 per cent fewer cases at 474 in the first three months year on year. But the amount of funds swindled out of victims had increased markedly from the HK$195 million lost in the first quarter of 2023.

Swindlers pretending to be government or company officials were responsible for 96 per cent, or HK$760 million, of the amount lost in the period this year.

“Although cases using such tactics only take up about 35 per cent of total phone scam cases, the losses tend to be much greater,” said Senior Inspector Lam Pui-hang of the force’s intelligence gathering and scam response team.

He said the number of mainland students in Hong Kong falling victim to such scams had also increased from 29 in the first quarter last year to 39 in the latest period.

One 18-year-old victim, who only identified herself as “Chen” was one of the most recent cases.

The university student said scammers had first approached her claiming to be officers from the immigration authorities. She said they claimed her phone number had been involved in “unscrupulous activities on the mainland” that “violated Hong Kong laws”, and that she had been “blacklisted”.

“I kept telling them I had done no such thing, but they kept saying they had evidence … I believed them, and was very emotionally traumatised and upset,” she said.

Phone scam victim Chen had HK$800,000 transferred from her bank account. Photo: Yik Yeung-man

The scammers feigned sympathy, telling her to pay large sums of money to “expedite” her case, she said.

She was also told not to tell anyone they were doing her a “secret favour”, as many people, including bank staff, were aware of her case.

Scammers instructed her to download an app, which police said was in fact a trojan virus that allowed the perpetrators to hack into her phone, granting them access to her bank details.

“They managed to transfer large amounts of money away from my bank account, and I had absolutely no idea,” she said.

The swindlers moved HK$800,000 out of her account in four transactions between April 23 and 26.

The victim’s bank spotted the suspicious activity and notified police, managing to halt another HK$200,000 before it was stolen.

Senior Inspector Lam Pui-hang urges people to use the force’s 18222 “anti-scam helpline”. Photo: Yik Yeung-man

Senior Inspector Lam said police would continue to work with schools and student groups to raise awareness among mainlanders and their parents about such scams, and where they could seek help.

He said the quickest and most effective first step was to call the force’s 18222 “anti-scam helpline”.

Police also warned the public to be aware of a new type of phone scam in which swindlers would impersonate staff from shopping websites or video platforms, claiming their victims had become VIPs and that they needed to start paying related membership fees.

If the victims wanted to opt out, they would need to pay more money for “handling fees”, otherwise their accounts would remain frozen.



Read More

Leave a Reply