The special anti-fraud unit of the Hong Kong police halted HK$700mil (RM370.28mil) worth of payments to local and international fraudsters using Internet and phone scams in the first three months of this year.
Chan Kwok-wai, the senior inspector of the Anti-Deception Coordination Centre, said on Wednesday the number of phone fraud cases the special unit had successfully solved rose 76% to 125 in the first quarter of 2019 from 71 in the same period last year.
The anti-fraud squad received 388 requests to block payments – totalling more than HK$1.42bil (RM751.14bil) – that had been transferred into scammers’ bank accounts in Hong Kong, mainland China and other countries from January to March. He said the number of the requests was a 40% increase compared to 277 in the same period last year.
“The centre has successfully helped victims to thwart the payments of HK$700mil (RM370.28mil) in 161 out of the 388 cases,” Chan said.
The payments that were frozen involved deceptions such as commercial email fraud, online romance scams, investment fraud and phone scams.
Although some of the cases came from outside Hong Kong, local police were involved because the bilked money was transferred into bank accounts in the city.
The Anti-Deception Coordination Centre was set up in July 2017 to pool police resources to thwart scam cases and run a 24-hour scam helpline – 18222.
The centre handled 6,203 calls in the first three months on 2019, up 25% from more than 4,900 calls in the same period last year. About 12% of the calls were linked phone scams.
From January to March, the team prevented 45 callers from being duped, including 26 involved in phone scams.
This most costly phone scam the police prevented this year would have cost the victim HK$980,000 (RM518,396).
Police said the amount of money defrauded by phone scammers rose to HK$34.4mil (RM18.19mil) in the first quarter, from HK$4.5mil (RM2.38mil) over the same time last year. There are three types of telephone scams: fake officials, bogus kidnappings and the “guess who I am” scam.
The “guess who I am” scams accounted for nearly two-thirds of the phone scams. In this deception, swindlers pretend to be a victim’s relative or friend urgently in need of money. Police handled 81 cases of this tactic with a loss of HK$3.84mil (RM2.03mil).
The fake-official phone scam duped 43 victims, and there was one case of a fake kidnapping scam that resulted in a loss of HK$60,000 (RM31,738).
The Post reported last week that 43 people were bilked out of HK$30.5mil (RM16.13mil) in the fake-official scam in the first three months of this year. Last year, over the same period, the 20 victims were cheated out of HK$1.89mil (RM999,772). – South China Morning Post