The Democratic Party slammed the police department for failing to protect young people from online scams and urged stepped-up efforts to patrol cyberspace, hk01.com reports.
At least seven youngsters had sought help from the party over the past six months after they fell prey to online loan scams, the party said in a press conference on Sunday.
In one such scheme, the victims were asked to secure a loan with part of the money going to the suspects, who in turn promised to pay the entire debt in a transaction they called “assets transfer”.
One of the victims present at the press conference said she saw a post on social media platform Instagram promising instant money to those in need.
As her family was in financial trouble at the time, the victim contacted the person who posted the Instagram message. She was promised that the suspect would pay for the loan, that she would have no liability in case of a default, and also get 30 percent of the loan amount as her reward.
She agreed and went to several financing companies to borrow a total of HK$300,000. She gave the amount to the suspect, who then vanished without giving her her share of the loan.
She said police were able to arrest the suspect later, but she had to pay back the loan at HK$14,000 a month, which she could hardly do as she was only earning HK$17,000 a month.
Another victim, a 22-year-old male student, said he saw a post on Instagram promising the same reward.
He said he borrowed a total of HK$200,000, of which more than HK$40,000 was invested in gold products. However, he said he did not receive the HK$50,000 reward promised by the suspect, who also disappeared without a trace.
Police did not take any action on his case due to the lack of evidence, although his family had helped him pay off the loan.
The Democratic Party said its research found that there are as many as 140,000 posts promoting such financial scams on Instagram, adding that youngsters are their favorite targets.
Suspecting that some organized crime groups are behind the scams, the party urged the police to take more aggressive measures against such fraudulent activities.
Andrew Wan Siu-kin, a former lawmaker and former vice-chairman of the party, said many young people are not sophisticated enough to tell the difference between a scam and a legitimate transaction, which is why many of them fall victim to such scams.
Wan said the scammers often asked their victims to borrow money from several designated finance companies, which led him to suspect that some of these firms may be working with criminal syndicates.
He urged police to keep a close watch on such companies.
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