Hong Kong police said on Thursday that there were 29 online dating scam cases last year, an increase of 26 percent over 2013, with the victims cheated out of more than HK$30 million in total.
In one case, a divorced professional lost about HK$9 million to a man who befriended her over the Internet, officials said.
During the first quarter this year, the police recorded nine cases of such fraud, involving total amount of HK$3.45 million, they said.
The victims were aged between 23 and 60, with office workers accounting for over 40 percent. About 25 percent were professionals, while 14 percent were from the service industry.
Most of the victims were female who have had unsuccessful marriages.
According to Chief Inspector Tsang Chun-kit of the police’s commercial crimes bureau, the biggest case involved a divorced woman who was cheated out of nearly HK$9.1 million, Apple Daily reported.
The professional, who is in her 50s, met someone online and developed a friendship, sharing personal details and information.
The man, who claimed to be a foreigner working in Southeast Asia, gained the confidence of the love-struck woman and began soliciting money.
Over the course of ten months, he is said to have asked for money 32 times and cheated the woman out of a total of HK$9.09 million.
Police say the online dating scammers are usually patient, often working on their victims for months to gain their trust before asking for money or credit card information on some pretext.
The fraudsters create fake profiles on social media platforms or online dating websites to befriend women in search of love and subsequently pull off financial scams.
As many criminals operate from overseas, it would require extra efforts to track them down by working with overseas law enforcement agencies and internet service providers, said Lam King-sing, chief inspector at the police’s Technology Crimes Bureau.
They police say they have arrested six scammers so far, while stepping up efforts to prevent such crimes.
A large-scale operation targeting the online romance scammers is said to be in the planning stage.
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