An elderly woman lost almost HK$4 million after she was duped into believing she was involved in a mainland criminal case and told to transfer the money to a mainland bank account to prove her innocence and help in an investigation.
The Tsim Sha Tsui woman realised she had become the city’s latest victim of a cross-border phone scam when con artists demanded she pay hundreds of thousands dollars more, according to police. She then sought help from the authorities.
On Monday, officers arrested a suspected female fraudster when she came to collect the money.
At about 6pm, the suspect was escorted by police to her public housing flat in Tuen Mun for a search of the home. Officers from the Yau Tsim police district are handling the case.
Hongkongers continue to fall victim to phone scams despite repeated warnings from police to verify the identity of callers and not to provide private banking information over the phone or internet.
In January, a businesswoman living in North Point was cheated out of HK$12 million. Two months later, a housewife was duped out of 2.4 million yuan (HK$2.7 million) after con artists posing as a Hong Kong immigration officer and a mainland policeman accused her of being involved in money laundering activities.
The largest loss ever recorded in the city for a phone scam was in March last year, when a Hong Kong businessman from Yuen Long was cheated out of HK$58 million.
Typically, victims are called and told a parcel they mailed had violated mainland laws before being passed onto someone claiming to be a mainland official. They are instructed to prove their willingness to cooperate by transferring money to a mainland bank account.
Hong Kong police reiterated that mainland law enforcers would never ask someone to hand over money to prove their innocence, or request users to provide online banking passwords over the phone or the internet. They would also not issue online arrest warrants.
Hong Kong police handled 656 phone scam cases in 2016 involving fraudsters posing as mainland officials in which victims lost a total of HK$203 million. And in 2015, there were 1,423 cases totalling HK$292 million.