Fraudsters defraud victims of over HK$132m as online investment scams in Hong Kong surge

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Fraudsters defrauded more than HK$132 million ($16.82 million) from victims of online investment scams in 243 reported cases in Hong Kong in the first two months of the year, police revealed on Thursday.

The amount of money lost by the victims increased by 268% compared to 35.9 million Hong Kong dollars in the same period last year, according to senior inspector Lam Pui-hang of the Anti-Coordination Center deception of force. He said 110 cases of online investment fraud were reported between January and February 2021.

Reports of such fraud rose sharply from 208 in 2017 to 980 in 2021, while the losses involved also increased by 277%, from HK$125 million to HK$472 million.

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Victims were lured by the promise of high returns. Photo: Shutterstock

Depending on the strength, scammers posing as investment experts usually prey on targets via social media and sometimes deploy handsome and nice scammers to lure victims.

“They show off their affluent lifestyle and post pictures of luxury cars and watches on social media to get their target’s attention,” said Commercial Crime Bureau Superintendent Yip Wing-lam.

He said the scammers then persuaded people to invest, saying they “could generate high returns and face low risk”.

In recent years, scammers have turned to job seekers amid the coronavirus pandemic and high unemployment, he said.

“They pretended to offer jobs, but in fact they lured the victims into bogus investment deals and defrauded them of their money,” the manager said.

He said some victims were instructed to transfer money to cryptocurrency accounts in an effort to make police investigations more difficult.

Superintendent Yip Wing-lam.  Photo: Jonathan Wong

Superintendent Yip Wing-lam. Photo: Jonathan Wong

The force said some victims were also tricked into downloading a fake investment app controlled by scammers.

Lam said the scammers posed as customer service agents to help victims open investment accounts and use the app, which showed fake trade records and returns, tricking targets into investing. more money.

“If victims want to withdraw money, fraudsters invent excuses, such as system failure, illegal investments or paying taxes to process the cashout, to delay payment,” he said. he declares.

Lam said the victims were told their investment accounts had been frozen and they were told to make other investments to get their money back. They realized they had been scammed when the “investment experts” were no longer reachable.

According to the force, some people have fallen victim to a ramp and dump investment scam, which is a form of stock market manipulation. Fraudsters use a variety of means to “boost” a publicly traded company’s share price and then trick investors via social media platforms into buying the shares they “empty” at an artificially high price.

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The unfortunate victims suffer heavy losses as the stock price plummets.

Police reminded the public to be alert to investment plans with unrealistic returns and to fully understand product features and security risks before investing money.

Officers also urged people to be extra careful when transferring money to personal accounts for investment purposes and not to download unknown apps.

Separately, six alleged senior members of a fraud syndicate appeared in Eastern Court on Thursday morning after being charged with conspiracy to defraud and money laundering.

According to the police, the alleged offenses involved a total of HK$397.4 million.

The six suspects, aged 24 to 38, were among 66 people arrested by police in 2018 and 2019 in connection with a bullion trading scam in which 215 victims were defrauded out of HK$111 million between 2015 and 2017. Police began the investigation in 2017.

Yip said that during the five-year investigation, officers conducted financial analysis, studied a large amount of financial reports and transaction records, and met with hundreds of victims and witnesses.

He added that the police had sought legal advice from the Ministry of Justice and had recently brought charges against the suspects.

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