Phone scam victims lose HK$34.46 million in January-March

May 09, 2019 17:01
Chief Inspector Wilson Tam (center) and other police officers remind the public to be wary when receiving phone calls from strangers. Photo: HK China News Agency

There were 127 phone scams reported in the first three months of the year, representing an increase of more than 41 percent from the same period last year, police data showed.

The victims during the period were swindled out of a combined HK$34.46 million by phone scammers, an amount that jumped sixfold year on year, police said in a press conference on Wednesday.

Chief Inspector Wilson Tam Wai-shun from the Kowloon East Regional Crime Unit revealed that in most of the cases, the scammers first asked potential victims to guess who they were before calling them by their nicknames, which they had obtained from their social media accounts, in an effort to lower their guard, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

The number of cases in which scammers used the “guess who I am” trick reached 81, up 64 percent from a year earlier and involving HK$3.84 million.

Tam said although there were only 43 cases in which scammers impersonated officials, the combined losses resulting from such modus operandi reached HK$30.55 million, accounting for nearly 90 percent of the total amount.

The victim who lost the most money to phone scammers in the first quarter was a 19-year-old female student from the mainland who is currently living in Hong Kong.

She received a call in March from a man claiming to be an employee of a courier company who told her that a parcel addressed to her was found to have criminal links.

She was told by the caller to open an account in a mainland bank and deposit HK$3.52 million as  “guarantee money”. She was then asked for the personal information number to her bank account.

The victim found out that the money was transferred out of the account shortly afterwards, prompting her to report to the police.

Tam said most of the people swindled by phone scammers during the period were aged 61 or above, and one in seven were housewives or retirees.

While reminding the public to be wary when receiving phone calls from strangers, police said that phone scammers keep changing their modus operandi, making it more difficult for police to catch them.

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