Phone scammers posing as officials from across the border are escalating their tactics, issuing fake arrest warrants to mainland Chinese victims working and studying in Hong Kong, police revealed on Saturday in the wake of a HK$7.13 million (US$920,000) con.
A 27-year-old mainland victim began receiving phone calls in mid-August from fraudsters speaking in Mandarin, alleging he had committed money-laundering crimes back home. He then surrendered personal details including his address, identity card number and online bank account login and password after being told it was necessary to “clear his name”.
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A few weeks later, in mid-September, a woman posing as a mainland law enforcement official visited his Jordan flat with a fake arrest warrant for money laundering. The victim later discovered HK$7.13 million had disappeared from his bank account and reported the case to police, who were able to recover some of the stolen money.
Subsequent investigation revealed the 20-year-old woman who had threatened the man with the phoney arrest warrant was herself a victim of the fraud ring.
Police said she had been coerced into staging the fake threat, but was not cheated out of any money.
Local authorities warned that scammers were shifting their focus from the elderly, previously their favoured targets, to mainlanders living in Hong Kong.
“We noticed that phone scams involving fake mainland officials are on the rise. People who come to Hong Kong for work or their studies may not be aware of such scams,” an officer said.
No arrests have been made in connection to the case so far, according to police.
Two weeks ago, an 18-year-old university student was arrested for her alleged involvement in phone scams that robbed Hongkongers out of more than HK$200 million. She was suspected of being a “spy” for con artists posing as law enforcement officers from the mainland.
In late August, a 31-year-old woman was arrested for allegedly swindling nearly HK$4 million from an elderly woman. The perpetrator claimed to be a “special agent” from the mainland who accompanied the victim to a local bank branch and got her to open an online account.
In the first five months of the year, more than 500 people in the city were duped out of HK$185 million in similar scams.