Investment scams in Hong Kong surged 55% in first quarter with losses of HK$900 million, police chief says

Investment scams in Hong Kong surged 55% in first quarter with losses of HK$900 million, police chief says

The number of deception cases in Hong Kong rose 0.9 per cent in the first three months year on year but investment-linked scams jumped 55.2 per cent, resulting in losses of more than HK$900 million (US$115 million), the police chief said on Saturday.

Commissioner of Police Raymond Siu revealed that all but investment scams had declined in the January to March period, and warned residents against falling for illicit high-return, low-risk schemes promoted on social media.

He urged residents to download the force’s anti-fraud Scameter app, which provides an up-to-date database on suspicious websites and phone numbers.

“Overall, numbers for most deception cases have come down, but investment scams remain an issue,” he said after a passing-out parade at the Hong Kong Police College in Wong Chuk Hang.

“Scammers often entice others with high-return, low-risk investment tools, but people should question whether it is high return-low risks for the scammers or victims.”

He said scammers usually lured victims by depositing a small sum of money into their accounts, to trick them into thinking it was genuine profit.

Being scammed? Potential victims to get alerts from Hong Kong police Scameter app

Hong Kong Monetary Authority chief executive Eddie Yue Wai-man, who also attended the parade ceremony, said the city’s de facto central bank would step up cooperation with police through the exchange of intelligence, as well as identifying suspicious transactions and mechanisms to prevent the flow of illicit funds.

“We will increase public education in relation to raising awareness of frauds … to protect citizens’ assets and Hong Kong’s financial security,” he said.

The number of deception cases in the first quarter rose to 8,966, an increase of 80 over the same period last year.

That was despite the number of telephone scams declining 20.5 per cent, love scams shrinking 28.1 per cent and online shopping cons contracting 6.6 per cent. Online job scams and phishing cases were more than 40 per cent lower.

Siu urged residents to download the anti-fraud app to avoid falling into scammers’ traps. He said since the debut of the app in February, the average daily number of reports by residents about suspicious websites stood at 95 and of telephone numbers at 434 as of mid-April.

He said police would verify reports and expand the app’s database.

“So far we have seen a 40 per cent increase in downloads of the app, but it is still not enough,” he added.

A CCTV camera set up on Soy Street in Mong Kok. Photo: Edmond So

On the installation of surveillance cameras in Hong Kong, Siu said 15 sets earlier deployed in Mong Kok had already yielded results.

He said CCTV camera footage had led to swift arrests in two serious cases recently.

Siu added that deployment of the cameras would be improved by taking into account feedback from residents and the privacy watchdog before more were rolled out in other districts.

By the middle of this year, 600 sets of CCTV cameras will be installed in crime hotspots as part of a police plan to install 2,000 sets by the end of 2024.

He stressed that the cameras were for combating crimes and pointed to overseas experience in cities such as London and Singapore.

“I learned from Singapore authorities that the city will install 200,000 sets of CCTV cameras by 2030 from 90,000 now,” he said. “I was told Singapore residents wanted more surveillance cameras for protection from crime.”

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In terms of staffing, Siu said more people applied to join the force in the 2023-24 financial year. He said the number of applicants jumped 46 per cent to 11,698 from a year earlier. Among them, 49 per cent more people applied for inspector positions and 44 per cent more for constable. The force had about 6,000 junior vacancies, Siu said.

“We will not compromise on quality to fill vacancies,” he said, noting that just one in 32 applicants for inspector was recruited and one in every eight people for constable.

“We will step up efforts in recruitment by going into the community,” he said, pointing to a plan to set up a recruitment booth at a shopping centre in Kwai Fong next month.



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