Hong Kong police have set up a new unit that will dedicate itself to the task of curbing phone and online scams that have become a growing worry for locals in recent years.
Authorities on Thursday flagged off operations of the Anti-Deception Coordination Centre, a special cell under the Commercial Crime Bureau, in a bid to consolidate available resources and step up the fight against scammers.
The new unit will try to deal with scams effectively and also take preemptive action to prevent such crimes and prevent financial losses for citizens.
The initiative comes as the police have been receiving growing complaints from the public about phone and email fraudsters who have often targeted women and the elderly.
A total of 7,260 scams were reported last year, accounting for 12 percent of total criminal cases in the city, according to Wong Ying-wai, chief superintendent of the Commercial Crime Bureau.
In the first half of 2017, the number of phone scams totaled 443, up 33 year over the same period last year. Meanwhile, there were 317 cases involving email scams, Wong said.
Email fraudsters mostly targeted businesses, causing HK$440 million in total losses for the victims within the six-month period.
Less than 10 percent of the amount has successfully been recovered, officials said, according to news website hk01.com.
Director of Crime and Security Au Chi-kwong said the newly-established police cell will step up combat actions against deception and aim to raise public awareness on various kinds of scams.
It also symbolizes a new phase of the joint effort of police and various stakeholders to fight scams, Au said.
One of the main tasks of the new unit is running an anti-scam helpline “18222″ for the public.
The number is not for case reporting, but only for quick consultations, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports. Help-seekers still have to call the police to officially file a report.
On Thursday, the police began sending a one-off text message, using the telecom networks of China Mobile (Hong Kong), SmarTone and Hutchison Telecom, to inform the public of the new helpline.
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