Date
16 December 2017
Blackmailers have been enticing victims to shed their clothes for a nude online chat, recording the images and threatening to upload them to the internet if the victims fail to transfer funds to an offshore account. Photo: RTHK
Blackmailers have been enticing victims to shed their clothes for a nude online chat, recording the images and threatening to upload them to the internet if the victims fail to transfer funds to an offshore account. Photo: RTHK

Extortion, rape and fraud on upswing in Hong Kong

The good news is that violent crime is down in Hong Kong.

The bad news is more Hongkongers are being blackmailed, raped and swindled this year.

Blackmail and extortion, in a city with a storied history of organized crime, is up 35.8 percent from a year ago, Hong Kong police crime statistics show.

While the triads are still doing that thing they do, more and more enterprising freelancers and internet provocateurs are adding to the mix.

Last month, a former Hong Kong policeman was convicted of blackmailing a property management firm for a sum of US$6,000.

Earlier this year, a Hong Kong firefighter pleaded guilty in District Court for attempting to blackmail a well-known, but unnamed, tycoon for US$5 million.

In 2013, a pair of idiot brothers attempted to extort US$13,000 from American director Michael Bay and his crew during the filming of Transformers: Age of Extinction.

On the net, blackmailers often befriend victims via social media and lure them to take off their clothes for a naked online chat, police say.

The culprits, who usually secretly record the exchange, circle back in due course to threaten they will make the video public unless money is paid to a foreign bank account.

Hong Kong webcam blackmailers have also been known to sweeten the booty by using threats to make usually false allegations of infidelity with domestic workers — including nannies, housekeepers and drivers.

While reports of indecent assault — touching of genitals without consent — are down nearly 10 percent, Hong Kong police reported a sharp 24.4 percent rise in rape cases.

Still, critics of Hong Kong police believe rapes are dramatically underreported, citing a lack of confidence in the force.

“Rape is very much underreported in Hong Kong, because it’s hard for women to come forward — they fear they will be blamed, and they worry about having to explain their story to a police officer,” Linda Wong Sau-yung, the executive director of the Association Concerning Sexual Violence against Women, told the South China Morning Post recently.

Following a shocking 60 percent increase in rapes in 2013, Secretary for Security Lai Tung-kwok drew harsh criticism after saying that women can avoid being raped by not drinking so much — in effect, blaming the victims instead of the rapists.

Disturbingly, he has never apologized.

Fraud offenses, the police statistics show, are up 22 percent, with 7,142 reported cases of cons.

Swindlers in Hong Kong, evidently, are a crafty bunch.

The police website has detailed descriptions of nearly 40 common scams that successfully hoodwinked Hongkongers for $US7.74 million in the first half of the year, more than twice the amount for the same period last year.

Among the most creative are telephone shakedowns in which fraudsters impersonate couriers (54.5 percent), pretend to be mainland law enforcement agents (21 percent), officials of Beijing’s liaison office in Hong Kong (14.5 percent), as well as other public servants (10 percent), such as staff of China Post and the China Banking Regulatory Commission, or employees of telecommunication companies.

Other con games include mortgage and insurance scams, every variety of pyramid scheme, online romance rip-offs, counterfeit money and virtual commodities deals, shady modeling rackets, fake money laundering, lottery scams and even fake mooncake redemption coupon flimflams.

There have been declines in the broad categories of robberies, burglaries and theft, although car thefts are up 12.5 percent, and vehicle break-ins are up 16.4 percent.

All in all, the statistics show a slight, 0.9 percent increase in overall crime.

(Cantonese only)

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FL

A strategist and marketing consultant on China business

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