A mainland Chinese woman living in Hong Kong has been duped out of 980,000 yuan (US$143,500) in a phone scam by a con artist pretending to be a Beijing policeman.
The swindler telephoned the woman and accused her of involvement in money laundering.
Her case came to light after Hong Kong police revealed that the amount of money bagged by phone scammers had dropped dramatically in the first half of the year.
The amount conned out of city residents between January and June fell 92 per cent on the same period last year, from HK$147.25 million (US$18.75 million) to HK$10.55 million.
The number of victims also declined, to 165 – a 62 per cent drop.
Police said the 29-year-old woman called police on Monday after realising she had been tricked. She had received a call from a man claiming to be an officer with Beijing’s public security bureau.
He accused her of involvement in a money laundering case, and ordered her to transfer money to a designated bank account as a surety for police investigations into the matter. She did as instructed and sent 980,000 yuan to an account on the mainland.
Last year Hong Kong police handled 991 reports of phone scams, which involved losses totalling a staggering HK$229.4 million. In 2016 there were 1,138 such scams reported, with the culprits pocketing HK$221.58 million.
The city’s biggest phone scam to date involved a 52-year-old Yuen Long resident conned out of more than HK$58 million in 2016.
Victims are typically accused of violating mainland laws and instructed to prove their willingness to cooperate with police by transferring money.
Some scams have involved fabricated kidnap scenarios in which victims were told relatives had been abducted and a ransom was needed for their release.
Separately on Monday, a money exchange store on Kik Yeung Road in Yuen Long lost 870,000 yuan in a money transfer scam.
A female member of staff, 36, called police at about 8pm saying a man had presented a fake bank deposit slip claiming HK$1 million had been placed in the company’s bank account via an online platform. He requested the money be sent to an account on the mainland, and the woman did as instructed, transferring 870,000 yuan.
She realised it was a scam when she checked the company account and found no such amount had ever been deposited.
In another case, reported to police on Tuesday, a 74-year-old woman living in public housing in Sha Tin called police at about 9.30am saying she had been duped out of HK$60,000.
Officers said a man pretending to be a mainland law enforcer had called the victim claiming she had been involved in a criminal case across the border. He also asked her to transfer money for investigative purposes, and she sent HK$60,000.