20 February 2019
Police remind the public to be on their guard when receiving phone calls from strangers. Photos: HK Police, HKEJ
Police remind the public to be on their guard when receiving phone calls from strangers. Photos: HK Police, HKEJ

11 phone scam victims lose HK$12.45 mln during Easter holiday

The Easter holiday was a busy period for phone scammers with their victims reporting a combined loss of HK$12.45 million.

Of the 11 cases reported to the police during the period, the biggest involved the loss of HK$3.47 million, while four other cases have each resulted in the loss of HK$1 million, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

The losses happened after the victims revealed to the scammers the passwords to their mainland bank accounts, police said.

Fraudsters would tell their intended victims to make transactions from their Hong Kong bank accounts to their “new bank accounts” under their own names via fake official websites or smartphone apps, Sing Tao Daily reported.

Police have also observed that victims who are relatively younger and have higher educational background tend to suffer bigger losses.

Chief Inspector Tam Wai-shun said there has been a rise in the number of phone fraud cases over the past few months.

A total of 63 cases of phone scams were reported in January and February, but the number more than doubled to 168 in March and April.

In March alone, 108 cases were recorded, while 60 cases were reported this month until April 17, including 11 cases during the Easter holidays.

Of the 171 cases recorded in the first quarter of 2017, 41 of the victims were under the age of 30 and 21 were aged 31 to 40.

These two age groups alone make up for more than half of the victims in recent phone scam cases.

Police believe many youngsters are more susceptible to phone scams because they are more accustomed to obtaining information from their smartphones.

Scammers who claimed to be government officials accounted for 54 percent of the cases, while 23 percent pretended to represent relatives or friends.

So far this year police have arrested four suspects, two men and two women aged 25 to 44, believed to be involved in at least 11 unlawful transactions amounting to HK$7.72 million.

Tam said many of the swindlers in the reported cases are believed to be from the mainland but use apps to make it appear that their calls are coming from local numbers.

Police also revealed that a smartphone application called “Protect” could allow a third-party computer to monitor a target’s bank account password and verification code, and could even intercept SMS messages that banks send out to inform clients about their transactions.

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