Hong Kong police are coordinating with their counterparts in Malaysia and Nigeria to crack down on an international group said to have defrauded women of more than HK$60 million by establishing romantic relationships with them through the phone and the internet.
The group has victimized at least 86 women, 73 of whom are from Hong Kong, with one of them having been scammed of as much as HK$9 million, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
The syndicate is said to be led by a pair of lovers who worked with 12 accomplices from all over Asia and Africa.
They used smartphone apps and social media platforms, and befriended women from Hong Kong and Malaysia by introducing themselves as American soldiers stationed overseas, British engineers or managers of multinational corporations who are looking for long-term relationships.
Victims in Hong Kong had allegedly given the group more than HK$58 million in total even without seeing the faces of their “lovers”.
One of the victims is a 57-year-old divorced nurse who met one of the fraudsters online in 2014. The suspect claimed to be a British engineer assigned in Southeast Asia, Apple Daily reported.
After a few months, they struck up a relationship, and the man started asking for money, citing various reasons like a vehicular accident or a mechanical problem at work.
The victim gave him more than HK$850,000 in 32 money transfers to his overseas account from March to October of that year.
It was not until the man had gone missing did she realize she had been scammed.
Another Hong Kong victim is a 37-year-old flight attendant surnamed Wai who lives in To Kwa Wan, Headline Daily reported.
Wai met a man who claimed to be working in Cape Town, South Africa, in May via the smartphone app Tinder.
After a few email exchanges, the man asked Wai to send him a laptop and a cellphone worth over HK$17,000.
Afterwards he claimed that he had problems at work and needed financial support, prompting Wai to send a total of HK$250,000 to five different African accounts.
Wai realized she had been duped after she heard news about international syndicates involved in such financial scams.
Chief Superintendent Hui Yee-wai of the Cyber Security and Technology Crime Bureau said at least 181 cases of online scams involving over HK$130 million have been reported in the city over the past three years.
Within the first 10 months of 2016 alone, more than 90 cases were reported.
Hui said most of the victims are highly educated women aged 25 to 73 with good computer literacy and proficiency in the English language.
Around half are white-collar workers, while many are professionals, housewives and retirees.
– Contact us at [email protected]