Fraud victims lost a combined HK$60 million (US$7.74 million) in the first half, more than twice the amount for the same period in the previous year, Hong Kong police say.
In most cases, the investment projects are located overseas and swindlers describe them as a “once in a lifetime opportunity”, according to Ming Pao Daily which cites senior police inspector Chan Yat-wai.
The swindlers use an elaborate scheme which includes visits to mines and vineyards in mainland China and investment forums complete with expert panelists.
Chan warned the public to exercise caution when approached with such investment proposals.
In one incident, 18 people were deceived into investing a combined HK$22 million in vineyards and mines in the mainland.
They uncovered the fraud after they stopped receiving monthly statements from the company.
Also, they found that the offices in its purported business address did not exist.
In another instance, three investors were tricked into buying shares in a US-listed media stock below market price after the scammers claimed they had extensive connections with the family that owns the company.
The swindlers offered to hold the shares and divide the profit when these are sold.
The investors, who put together HK$57 million, did not see their money again.
Meanwhile, a 36-year-old man fell for a scam by an Australian national to invest in US property.
He was told he could make a profit five times his investment and would get his money back if the deal fails.
The victim was shown a US$1.5 million bank guarantee.
The bank guarantee was found to be genuine but it had expired by the time the man discovered the fraud.
Henry Wong, chief inspector in the Commercial Crime Bureau, said most bank guarantees used by swindlers are forged.
Even if they are genuine, they have hidden clauses and terms.
Many of the scammers were referred to the victims by someone the latter knew, making the transaction look authentic, he said.
Jeanette Kwok, head of corporate communications of the Investor Education Center, said people should carefully examine investment opportunities that are “unbelievably attractive”.
They should seek professional advice or check with the Securities and Futures Commission.
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