Hong Kong authorities have arrested a suspected phone scammer accused of impersonating a police officer to trick his victim into revealing his online banking details.
The scam came to light when the victim, a 25-year-old man, discovered someone had tried to log into his account and called police.
The force said on Wednesday that the victim, who lived in a Tuen Mun village, received a call from a man claiming to be a Hong Kong police officer on April 8.
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A police source said the suspect had claimed to be from the force’s financial investigation division and told the victim, a bus driver, that he was accused of being involved in a fatal traffic accident. The suspect then instructed him to turn over the password to his online bank account so his assets could be vetted.
“The victim believed the caller was a police officer because he had the victim’s personal details, such as his name, age and home address,” said Senior Inspector Lo Kit-ying, of the Tuen Mun district crime squad.
She added that once the victim discovered someone had tried to log into his account, he immediately contacted his bank to suspend his online services and called police. No money was stolen.
After identifying the suspect, officers arrested a 42-year-old man in connection with the case on Tuesday.
Inside his flat, police found a letter belonging to the victim and seized a mobile phone and a SIM card allegedly used in the attempted fraud.
“We believe the suspect stole the letter to get the personal information of the victim, and he impersonated a police officer to lure the victim into revealing the bank details,” Lo said.
As of Wednesday afternoon, the suspect, who is unemployed, was still being held for questioning and had not been charged.
Reports of phone scams rose 18 per cent year on year to 200 in the first quarter of 2021. The amount of money phone fraudsters pocketed also soared to HK$353 million (US$45.5 million) in the first three months of this year, up from just HK$54 million in the same period last year.
The biggest phone scam in Hong Kong history came to light last month after a 90-year-old woman living in a luxury house on The Peak was duped out of HK$250 million by swindlers impersonating mainland Chinese authorities.
In 2020, police handled 1,193 cases of phone scams involving a total of HK$574 million in losses. Telephone fraud is often a trans-jurisdictional crime, and many perpetrators make their calls from outside Hong Kong, according to police.