Con artists in Hong Kong have been impersonating police officers in a new wave of phone scams over the past two weeks, prompting the force to issue a public warning.
Some 99 people, aged 22 to 74, made reports to police in Wan Chai district between April 21 and May 3 after receiving calls from bogus officers.
Senior Inspector Chan Tak-ming of Wan Chai district crime squad said phone scammers claimed they were officers attached to the police headquarters in Wan Chai or the commercial crime bureau.
Do you have questions about the biggest topics and trends from around the world? Get the answers with SCMP Knowledge, our new platform of curated content with explainers, FAQs, analyses and infographics brought to you by our award-winning team.
He said swindlers used the names and police unique identification numbers of a retired officer and a serving colleague to cheat their targets.
“Over the telephone conversation, the fraudsters told the victims their full names, dates of birth and the first three numbers of their identity cards,” he said.
Those who received the calls were accused of being involved in criminal cases in mainland China, such as money laundering.
When the targets denied the accusations, the calls were transferred to a Mandarin-speaking accomplice who claimed he was a mainland Chinese law enforcer.
They were told their assets had to be vetted and were then instructed to show their identity cards, home return permits, bank cards and credit cards along with passwords through live video calls.
Scammers also gave some of their targets a hyperlink that directed the victims to a bogus website in which they were persuaded to input online banking account details.
One of the 99 victims – a 27-year-old woman – was conned out of HK$95,000 (US$12,230) after she wrote her bank account details on the website, while the others did not fall victim to the scams. The 30 men and 69 women included retirees, unemployed people and clerical workers.
Chan said the force had not contacted any of the 99 people in connection with the so-called criminal cases in mainland China, adding that the two officers phone swindlers impersonated were not linked to the phone scams.
He said one of the two policemen had retired and the other was a sergeant but not stationed in the police headquarters or the commercial crime bureau. “It is possible swindlers found their names and unique police identification numbers on the internet,” he said.
He said police were investigating how swindlers obtained their targets’ personal information and contact numbers.
So far, no arrests have been made. Detectives from the Wan Chai district crime squad are investigating the matter.
Senior Inspector Lam Pui-hang of the anti-deception coordination centre urged the public not to disclose any personal data or bank details and passwords to strangers.
He also urged people to stay alert against any form of deception.
Last year, 15 Hongkongers, aged 17 to 82, were conned by phone scammers posing as mainland law enforcers who accused their targets of breaking the national security law. One of the victims, a 65-year-old woman, lost HK$2.2 million, while the 14 others were conned out of HK$8,000 or more.
Police handled 1,193 phone scams last year, in which tricksters bagged a total of HK$574 million. The first two months of this year saw 122 such cases, a 31 per cent increase year on year.
The biggest victim so far was a 90-year-old woman living in a mansion on The Peak, who was conned out of about HK$250 million between August 2020 and January this year.
More from South China Morning Post:
This article Beware of fraudsters posing as Hong Kong police on phone, force warns public over new wave of scams first appeared on South China Morning Post