Hong Kong police have arrested three people over an alleged air purifier scam that conned more than 30 city residents out of about HK$100,000 amid the coronavirus pandemic, the force said on Saturday.
Police said two women and one man arrested had sold the products, which they claimed were made in Japan, on social media at a price of HK$900 each.
But several buyers stepped forward to claim they had been cheated when their purifiers failed to show up after payment.
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Officers took the three suspects, aged 25 to 33, into custody on Thursday and Friday for obtaining property by deception. The arrests were made in Sau Mau Ping, Sha Tin and Cheung Sha Wan.
Disclosing the details at a press briefing, Hau Lai-man, chief inspector for Western district, said officers believed the group was involved in at least 30 such cases in the first half of the year.
“When residents make a purchase, particularly involving an online platform which they are using for the first time, they should be vigilant,” Hau said.
“They must pick reliable platforms and should not casually buy in bulk just because the products don’t cost much.”
Hau said he believed the man was the mastermind of the group and that the trio would be charged later. He did not rule out more arrests.
Coronavirus: con artists swindle thousands of Hongkongers in face mask scams totalling HK$48 million
He added the force has seen a number of cases related to the coronavirus pandemic in the first six months of 2020, a trend he predicted would continue.
Earlier this year, scams also emerged over mask sales, as Hong Kong residents scrambled to secure then-scarce protective gear to guard against the virus.
On April 20, police said they had arrested 31 suspected online scammers during a five-day operation for duping more than 400 buyers of surgical masks out of more than HK$3 million.
To that point in the year, police had received 1,865 reports of online mask scams, involving HK$56.9 million, according to Superintendent Chan Rock-sang of the Cybersecurity and Technology Crime Bureau.