A Hong Kong public housing tenant has been duped by phone out of HK$137,000 (US$17,470) by men posing as mainland Chinese immigration officers, police said on Monday.
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A 28-year-old woman living at Kin Ming Estate in Tseung Kwan O reported her losses to police early on Monday morning after realising she had been conned into transferring 122,000 yuan to two bank accounts on the mainland.
She had received a call from a man claiming to be an immigration officer who accused her of involvement in money laundering.
“The phone call was then transferred to another man also claiming to be a mainland immigration officer, who asked her to transfer money to two designated bank accounts for investigations into the case,” a police source said.
The woman did as instructed.
Hong Kong police last week issued an alert to city residents after noticing an increase in the number of phone scams.
“Some victims have been students or workers who were new arrivals to Hong Kong. Please stay alert,” the force said on its website.
Many of those falling prey received a pre-recorded call from swindlers pretending to be the staff of couriers firms, the Hong Kong Immigration Department or mainland public security departments.
Victims are often accused of violating mainland laws. They are then assured by scammers posing as mainland police officers that their case will be investigated properly if they transfer funds to a designated bank account.
“The swindlers might provide fraudulent arrest warrants or website details to lure the victims into opening new bank accounts and disclosing their names, identity card numbers, bank account numbers, PIN codes or account balance,” the force said.
Police have issued guidance on how to deal with suspected scams, reminding residents to hang up, verify the call and seek help.
The latest figures from the force show phone scammers stole HK$15.05 million from the city’s residents between July and September this year, a 42 per cent rise compared with HK$10.55 million stolen in the first six months of this year.
Police also noticed a rise in telephone deception cases between July and September, with 152 reports of phone scams. There were 165 cases in the first half of this year.
Some 991 reports of phone scams were made to police in the whole of last year, involving losses of HK$229.4 million. In 2016 there were 1,138 scams reported, with the culprits pocketing HK$221.58 million.
The city’s biggest telephone deception to date saw a 52-year-old Yuen Long resident conned out of more than HK$58 million in 2016.