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Con artists strike it rich in Hong Kong with job fraud and ID theft totalling HK$7.82 million in 2018, or seven times more than all of 2017

Desperate jobseekers persuaded to hand over personal details and bank information in fake employment scammers

Hong Kong’s con artists have scammed ­job seekers out of seven times more cash in the first four months of 2018 than they did in the entire year of 2017, police revealed on Monday.

Identity theft and fake job offers drove the rise, with the latest police figures showing 78 Hongkongers losing HK$7.82 million (US$996,000) in 48 reported scams.

That is compared to the HK$1.13 million that 43 vunerable victims lost last year to con artists in 33 cases, covering a variety of scams. Of the HK$7.82 million, HK$7.1 million was lost in loan-related employment fraud, a figure that dwarfs the HK$480,000 con artists raked in using similar schemes in 2017

This year’s biggest loser to date is a 26-year-old woman who was duped of HK$800,000 in a loan-related job scam. She replied to an online job advert in March.

“To secure the position, she provided the interviewer with a copy of her identity card, together with other personal data,” chief inspector Jackie Tam Wing-sze of the force’s commercial crime bureau said.

The victim was later told HK$780,000 had been paid into her bank account. She was requested to help withdraw the money, with the promise of a HK$13,000 payday afterwards.

Some weeks later, she received a formal request of debt recovery from a bank, and realised the fraudster had stolen her identity to apply for a personal loan amounting to HK$800,000.

A 25-year-old woman was conned out of HK$640,000 after she responded to a job advert on the internet in January.

She was lured into applying for loans, and to use her credit cards to buy gold, and was promised HK$74,000 in commission if she did so. According to police, she was told the “company would be responsible for repaying any & all the debts”.

The woman only realised it was a scam after she gave all the money and gold to the conman and then lost contact with him.

Police said they had also observed criminals were more & more using the lure of attractive job offers, such as working as a flight attendant for overseas airlines, to swindle jobseekers.

In November, a 24-year-old woman fell victim when she answered an advert for a supposed vacancy with an overseas airline on a social media platform. In due course she was eventually convinced to part with a total of HK$170,000 as part of the fake recruitment process.

The victim only discovered the scam the following month when she tried to verify her job application.

The woman is the biggest loser of such fraud in recent years, police stated.

Officials attributed the increase in the reports of employment fraud, and the amount of losses this year, to their investigations into a loan-related job scam in which 10 victims lost HK$3.4 million.

“Any person could be the victim of employment fraud,” Tam said, adding that con artists would always invent different ways to steal other people’s money.

Increasingly, Tam said, fraudsters were using various scams online and on social media.

With the approach of the summer holidays, Tam said school leavers and summer jobseekers should be “cautious and on vigilant alert at all times”.

Senior labour officer Yeung chi-kit of the Labour Department said jobseekers should be wary of adverts for well-paid jobs that do not require work experience, or any academic qualifications.

He said all persons should be cautious if asked to pay deposits, training fees, for goods and services, or asked to provide personal data or credit card, identity card, and bank account details.

www.crimefiles.net

www.intelagencies.com

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Henry Sapiecha

Manager at Hong Kong finance firm loses HK$14 million to man she never met in eight-year online love scam relationship

This Con artist pretended to be British movie director as police reveal city’s residents lost HK$75.9 million in similar scams in first three months alone of this year

A financial professional person has become Hong Kong’s biggest victim of internet romance scams, losing HK$14 million (US$1.8 million) to a con artist she only had an online relationship with for eight years, police sources revealed, amid an upswing in such cases just this year.

Online romance scammers duped 119 Hongkongers to the tune of HK$75.9 million in total in the first three months of this year, five times more than the amount scammed for the same period last year.

A police source described the eight-year con as the longest-lasting online love scam in the city, and the HK$14 million lost as the largest in a solitary case.

The victim, a woman in her 40s who works as a manager in a financial institution, met her purported lover on an online dating website and transfered the money to bank accounts in Malaysia and Hong Kong in over 200 transactions starting in 2010, sources told the Post.

She did not meet him face-to-face throughout their entire eight-year online relationship.

After using up all her own savings, the woman applied for loans and borrowed money from family and friends before eventually realising last month that she had been swindled by her online lover, who pretended to be a British film director and only ever made contact with her via email and WhatsApp messaging.

According to police, the woman first became acquainted with the swindler, who used a photograph of a white man in his online dating profile, in August 2010. The con artist spent three months befriending his victim, before he first requested money from her.

“He claimed he was detained by Malaysian authorities after being found carrying about £300,000 in breach of the country’s laws,” another police source said.

“In the beginning, the victim was asked to transfer more than HK$10,000 to pay the administration fee for his release. The scammer then invented different excuses, and duped the victim into transferring yet again more money.”

Another source said the victim had made between 200 and 300 transactions in total, with amounts ranging from HK$10,000 to hundreds of thousands of dollars at a single time. The last transaction was made in March.

The case only became tevident after the victim talked to her family when she tried to borrow more money, and realised she had been cheated. She called police in mid-April.

Investigators could not find any British film director with the name used by the con artist. Sources said they were trying to trace the holders of the bank accounts used in the scam, and interchanging intelligence with their Malaysian counterparts.

www.intelagencies.com

www.crimefiles.net

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Official police figures show nearly 93 per cent of the victims in the first quarter were women, and almost 12 per cent of them were professionals. More than 80 per cent of them were aged between 31 and 60.

Police said 113 of the victims were Hongkongers, and the remaining six were women from mainland China and Taiwan living in the city.

In 2017, 235 people were swindled out of HK$108 million in such scams, more than double the 114 cases in 2016, which involved HK$95 million.

Another police source said the money lost in online scams in the first five months of this year was likely to be more than the amount lost over the whole of last year.

In addition to the HK$14 million case in April, two other women were cheated out of a total of HK$8 million in May.

The rampant online love scams have prompted the police force’s Anti-Deception Coordination Centre to issue a scam alert on its website.

Scammers are typically disguised as “Caucasian” European or American men, claim to be professionals working in fields such as engineering, banking, business or the military, and befriend victims online.

It usually takes them at least one or two months to win the trust and sympathy of their victims, before inventing different reasons to get them to part with their money.

According to police, the swindlers are constantly changing their tactics, and police are urging the public to be wary of who they talk to online.

“Beware of online romance scammers who want MONEY, not LOVE!” a message on the website warns.

www.mylove-au.com

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Henry Sapiecha