Police have warned Hong Kong people who seek romance online to be more careful amid a rise in the number of dating scams victimizing locals.
Cases of online dating scams rose to 62 last year, more than double the 29 cases reported in 2014, Apple Daily reported, citing official police data.
The victims were cheated out a combined HK$32.4 million (US$4.17 million), up 7 percent from the previous year, with one victim losing as much as HK$5.14 million.
Nine in 10 victims were female, and office workers aged between 30 and 40 accounted for 40 percent of the victims, police said.
About 24 percent were professionals while 18 percent were from the service industry, the data showed.
During the first two months of this year, police recorded 16 cases of such fraud, involving a combined HK$16 million, including a female victim who said she lost HK$4.3 million in just six months.
Chief Inspector Tsang Chun-kit of the Commercial Crime Bureau said one reason for the surge in the number of cases was the police crackdown on online dating scams last year, which prompted more victims to come out and report their experiences.
Tsang said most of the scam artists told their victims they were Caucasians from Britain, Australia, New Zealand, the United States and some other European countries, and working as engineers, corporate managers or other types of professionals in Southeast Asia.
They often target local professional women who are desperate to find someone to love.
After they win a victim’s heart through lies and flatteries, they start testing how wealthy their target is by asking them to pay for gifts before they ask for bigger amounts to cover the hospitalization of a supposed sick member of the family.
Before the victim realizes that it is a scam, she has already given huge amounts of money to the scam artist.
Tsang said his bureau is working with counterparts in neighboring countries and the Interpol to enhance the campaign against these scam artists.
He asked people to carefully choose their friends on social platforms and beware when they are asked to wire money by friends.
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