From 9 to 1 September, Wong Tai Sin Crime District conducted its fourth "Light and Shadow" enforcement operation for 20 consecutive days, successfully detecting 20 telephone deception cases involving over $4.42 million in various districts of Hong Kong. During the operation, a total of 560 people, including 23 men and 21 women, aged between 2 and 15, were arrested. Most of them are suspected of committing the crimes of "obtaining property by fraud" and "money laundering". Among those arrested were suspected money laundering puppet account holders, fraudulent phone number holders, and persons responsible for receiving cash from victims for fraud.
Inspector Lam Kwok-hin (right), Head of Crime Investigation Unit 3 of Wong Tai Sin District Crime Investigation Unit, and Inspector Kwok Ka-shing (left), Head of Crime Unit 2 of Wong Tai Sin District (left), explain the case. (Photo by Zheng Jiahui)
According to the Police, a total of 2023,1 telephone scams were received in the first half of 579. Compared with 2022 cases in the first half of 786, it increased to 2%, which shows that telephone deception cases are still on the rise, so the Police have taken arrest actions against electric deception cases. In addition, in view of the Government's full implementation of the real-name registration system for telephone cards in February this year, the Police have focused on cracking down on fraudulent phone number holders in addition to puppet account holders.
Inspector Kwok Ka-shing, Head of Major Crime Unit 23 of Wong Tai Sin District, said that of the 12 arrestees, 7 were suspected of money laundering puppet account holders, 3 were fraudulent phone number holders, and 15 were responsible for receiving cash fraud from the victims, claiming to be warehouse clerks, decoration workers, cooks, retirees and unemployed. The youngest arrestee is a <>-year-old boy who is still studying. The police believe he was being used by a criminal syndicate to collect fraudulent payments from the victims and receive hundreds to thousands of dollars in remuneration.
According to the Police, there were 42 victims, including 20 men and 22 women, aged between 22 and 88, who were generally employed as sales clerks, clerks and teachers. Police also noted that more than half of the victims were elderly people aged 60 or above, and most of them were in the "guess who I am" telephone scam. The amount of loss per victim ranged from HK$2,000 to HK$136.136 million. The $136.<> million case involved a "fake official" case, in which the victim received a phone call from a fraudster posing as a Mainland police officer, alleging that he had laundered money and needed to transfer $<>.<> million to show his innocence. The victim was defrauded and transferred the money, and eventually found out that he had been deceived.
Fraudsters steal other people's identity cards and steal personal information registration phone cards through false job advertisements on the Internet
During the operation, the Police noticed that due to the implementation of the real-name registration system for telephone cards, fraud syndicates could no longer use anonymous telephone stored value cards to defraud themselves in order to hide their identities, and instead attracted job seekers to contact by stealing other people's identity cards or uploading false job advertisements on the Internet.
At the same time, scam syndicates will require job seekers to send copies of their identity cards through instant messaging software, claiming to be used for registration of employment records. When a stolen ID card or a copy of an identity card is stolen, the fraud syndicate will use it to register a telephone stored value card for telephone fraud.
Fraudsters then use these phone numbers to call the victims as usual, pretending to be relatives of the victims, such as their children, sons-in-law, daughters-in-law, etc. When the victim is convinced, the fraudster will use different reasons to demand money, such as saying that the other party is more arrested than the police, needs bail, or has financial difficulties. The fraudsters will then ask the victim to withdraw tens of thousands of dollars in cash and meet at a specific location to settle the payment. Finally, the scam syndicate assigns a member who pretends to be a friend of the victim's relatives to collect the cash fraud at the settlement location. On the other hand, the Group may also appoint another member to conduct reconnaissance near the settlement site, monitor the entire settlement process from a distance, and report the settlement to the Group to ensure a smooth settlement process and reduce the chance of detection or arrest by the Police.
Guo pointed out that in addition to the settlement at a specific location, fraudsters may also go directly to the victim's residence or go to the vicinity of the residence to collect the fraudulent payment. In addition, some fraudsters will ask victims to transfer funds to the puppet bank account provided by the fraudsters by bank transfer.
Police seized bank cards, cash, mobile phones and other evidence. (Photo by Zheng Jiahui)
Playing "Colleague" and "Boss" Victims assist in purchasing and transfer emergencies
In addition, the Police have also noticed relatively rare deception methods. First, the fraudster will first call the victim, pretend to be a colleague of the victim's company, and ask the victim to purchase products on his behalf from a fictitious company of the fraudsters, pay for the purchase on his behalf, and provide a bank account number to transfer money to the victim. Eventually, after the victim transfers the "purchasing fee", the fraudster will lose contact and will not know until the victim contacts his real colleagues later.
Second, the scammer would call the victim and pretend to be his boss. When the victim believes, the scammer will claim that he needs a small amount of money for emergency and will ask the victim to go to a nearby ATM and follow their instructions to transfer money.
When the victim arrives at the ATM and calls the fraudster, the fraudster will log him in to his account and ask him to enter the bank account number provided by the fraudster. After entering the bank account number, the ATM will be taken to the Enter Transfer Amount page. At this point, the scammer will claim that the victim needs to enter another set of "34567" password on the page, and then press OK before the transfer can be made. In the end, the victim, Zong followed the fraudster's instructions with a half-hearted conviction, resulting in him transferring $34,567 to the fraudster's bank account.
The Police remind the public that telephone deception tactics are constantly emerging. Members of the public should always be vigilant to avoid falling prey to the trap of electricity scams. The Police emphasised that since the current real-name registration system adopts the telephone number system, if members of the public lend their telephone numbers for other people to use for illegal purposes, they may also commit related offences, and urged members of the public not to sell or lend their telephone numbers to other strangers.
Finally, the Police reiterated that any person who assists a fraud syndicate or is involved in any related fraud may be guilty of "fraud" under section 210A of Cap. 16 of the Theft Ordinance, which is punishable by imprisonment for up to 14 years. The holder of a puppet account may commit a money laundering offence under section 455 of Cap. 25 of the Organised and Serious Crimes Ordinance and is liable to up to 14 years' imprisonment and a fine of HK$500 million.
Inspector Lam Kwok-han, Head of Crime Investigation Unit 3 of Wong Tai Sin District, said that most of the victims in private cases detected by the Police were elderly. Fraudsters will call the elderly, pretend to be their relatives and friends, and for various reasons, create an urgent situation, which will make the elderly anxious and cause losses. Therefore, members of the public are reminded to be careful to verify the identity of callers.
As fraudsters also collect information on victims, their relatives and friends from different sources to enhance credibility. Police remind members of the public not to disclose sensitive information about individuals, or relatives and friends to strangers. In addition, fraudsters now use other people's identification documents to register phone cards or open puppet accounts to receive fraudulent payments. Therefore, in order to prevent these situations, if members of the public accidentally lose their identity documents, they should report the loss as soon as possible.
In addition, as most of the victims are elderly people living alone, the Police urge members of the public to pay more attention to the elderly at home or in their neighbours, communicate with them more, reduce their sense of distance, update them on the latest situation, and reduce the credibility of fraudsters.
Uncle Li, who is in his 80s, received a call from a scammer pretending to be his daughter, saying that he needed to pay 5,<> yuan bail for driving down the person. Fortunately, when Uncle Li went to the street to withdraw money, he saw the police officer and came forward to inquire whether there was a traffic accident just now, only to learn that there was no such thing, everything was just for the fraudster's words, and did not cause monetary losses.
Uncle Li, who is in his 80s, received a call from a scammer pretending to be his daughter, saying that he needed to pay 5,<> yuan bail for driving down the person. Fortunately, when Uncle Li went to the street to withdraw money, he saw the police officer and came forward to inquire whether there was a traffic accident just now, only to learn that there was no such thing, everything was just for the fraudster's words, and did not cause monetary losses. (Photo by Zheng Jiahui)
In addition, the Police also disseminate the latest anti-deception information through news and online advertisements, and if members of the public have any doubts, they can call the Police Anti-Deception Hotline 18222 or contact patrol officers on the street for enquiries. The Police have also launched an "anti-deception website" and a telephone app "Anti-Deception Watch" for members of the public to check phone numbers, websites, emails, social media accounts and collection accounts of different banks for fraudulent elements.