Date
24 September 2018
The rapid growth in the number of online romance scams in recent months should serve as a wake-up call for citizens in Hong Kong. Photo: HKEJ
The rapid growth in the number of online romance scams in recent months should serve as a wake-up call for citizens in Hong Kong. Photo: HKEJ

Enhanced transparency is key to combating online romance scams

A total of 272 online dating and romance scam cases were reported in the city in the first half of this year, up 2.5 times from only 78 during the same period in 2017, according to figures recently released by the Anti-Deception Coordination Center (ADCC) under the Commercial Crime Bureau of the Hong Kong Police Force.

These online romance scammers, who are mainly Africans based in Malaysia, have cheated their Hong Kong victims, who are predominantly females, of HK$137 million, which is 2.7 times more than last year, the police statistics showed.

The ADCC also said it has coordinated 23 operations that resulted in the arrest of 30 suspected scammers so far this year. It has also stopped the remittance of over HK$500 million related to such scams.

In other words, online romance fraud would have cost our citizens far more in the first six months this year had it not been for the swift and decisive actions taken by our law enforcement.

The rapid growth in the number of online romance scams in recent months should serve as a wake-up call for local citizens.

At the end of the day, we believe the best way to prevent people from falling victim to romance scams in the cyberworld is for the authorities to raise public awareness about the common tricks employed by these scammers so that Hongkongers would become more vigilant.

According to the ADCC, police also recorded a total of 165 phone scam cases in the first half of 2018, a remarkable 60 percent drop from the same period last year.

We believe the sharp decline in the number of once-rampant phone scams in Hong Kong can be attributed to the intense public education campaigns mounted by the police as well as frequent media coverage of these criminal activities.

As such, we strongly urge the police to adopt the same high-profile approach to fighting scams, especially those involving online romance.

At the same time, our citizens should also stay more alert to scammers by boosting transparency when developing online relationships.

For instance, they should insist on meeting their “online lovers” in person or at least having video chats with them first before considering taking their relationship to the next level.

People should be extra careful when it comes to online relationships that involve money transfers.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Aug 14

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Hong Kong Economic Journal

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