Two jobless men have been arrested over online scams in which 22 Hongkongers, including students and professionals, were duped out of more than HK$2.8 million (US$361,272) over the past few months.
The victims, aged 16 to 56, were deceived into making bogus investments or payments for driving permits, according to Senior Inspector Lo Oi-kin of the Hong Kong Island regional crime unit.
She said the biggest case involved HK$2.5 million after the victim was tricked into making a so-called investment in bitcoin trading.
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According to the unit, the gang of swindlers left posts on Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms to lure their targets into cryptocurrency trading. They also claimed in their online posts that they could offer tips to gamble and win in Macau casinos.
“They did not give details of the investments or gambling tips in their posts, but touted a high return in a short period, ” Lo said.
She said photos of huge stacks of cash, luxury watches and cars were also posted online to lure victims.
According to police, the fraudsters also took advantage of the coronavirus pandemic to cheat Hongkongers looking for a short getaway, as residents head to Lantau Island for sightseeing amid restrictions on overseas travel.
Extra money was even extorted from some victims
Senior Inspector Lo Oi-kin
The swindlers said in online posts that they could help car owners apply for the Lantau Closed Road Permit for an annual fee of HK$9,800. The permit allows motorists to drive into some restricted areas on the island, but only nearby residents and shop operators are eligible to apply.
“Extra money was even extorted from some victims,” Lo said, adding the amounts could go up to HK$80,000, with threats of personal information such as ID card details and vehicle licence numbers being posted online.
Lo said she believed the same gang was behind the two types of deception and they had been operating for several months.
After an in-depth investigation, officers arrested two men aged 36 and 38 on Tuesday in relation to the scams. Police believed their bank accounts were used to collect money from some victims.
As of Wednesday afternoon, the duo were being held for questioning and had not been charged.
According to official statistics, police handled 8,129 reports of deception in the first half of this year, up 110 per cent from 3,855 in the same period last year.
In Hong Kong, obtaining property by deception carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in jail under the Theft Ordinance.
This article Hong Kong police arrest two men over online scams that cheated 22 people of nearly HK$3 million first appeared on South China Morning Post