348 Hongkongers, including 50 students, fell victim to fake online job ads in May

Police advise students who are interested in finding summer jobs to be wary of falling into ‘click farming’ trap. — SCMP

Nearly 350 Hongkongers, including about 50 students, fell prey to fake online job offers in May, marking the city’s highest number of such cases in a single month.

Police said on Wednesday reports of online employment fraud soared to 348 last month, a 60% increase from the 217 logged in April. The force did not reveal financial losses involved.

Officers handled 553 online job scam reports in the first three months of this year, with financial losses amounting to HK$154mil (RM92.89mil or US$19.7mil).

“Among the victims in May, students were the most affected group, with about 50 students falling victim to bogus job offers,” police said in a post on their CyberDefender Facebook page.

Police have warned residents to be wary of job offers, especially those purporting to offer attractive salaries but not stating any requirements in terms of academic qualification or work experience.

“As the summer holiday approaches, students who are interested in finding summer jobs need to be cautious, to avoid falling into the trap of ‘click farming’,” the force said.

In “click farming” ruses, swindlers sent fake job offers through SMS, or left online adverts, promising job-hunters cash rewards for e-shopping.

Jobseekers were told their aim was to boost sales and the popularity of a retail outlet by using their own money to shop online, with swindlers promising to pay them back with a commission.

Victims realised they had been scammed after they did not receive the money they had spent, as well as the promised commission, and were unable to reach the fraudsters.

A force insider warned tricksters sometimes used small commission payments as “bait” to coax their targets into making more transactions and spending even more money.

In the Cyberdefender post, police said scammers would post advertisements or articles in job-seeking groups on social media platforms, offering various types of jobs as bait.

“They then invent different excuses to lure jobseekers to bogus websites to engage in ‘click farming’ activities with the promise of paying them commission,” the force said.

“Sometimes, they even pretend to be representatives of different companies and carry out fake recruitment activities using the company logos.”

Police have advised the public to be cautious. Photo: Sun Yeung

Police reminded the public to use reliable job search channels to find employment and understand the background and nature of the companies they apply to.

“If the other party only provides WhatsApp as a means of contact, their phone number cannot be reached, and they offer jobs without requiring education or interviews, it’s highly likely that it’s a scam in nine out of 10 cases,” the force warned.

Click farming pushed the number of overall online employment fraud cases to 3,518 last year, with the recorded losses reaching HK$760mil (RM458.41mil).

In 2022, 2,884 cases with financial losses amounting to HK$459mil (RM276.86mil) were recorded. The figure is more than four times the HK$85mil (RM51.27mil) swindlers pocketed in 1,063 cases in 2021.

A total of 236 cases involving financial losses of HK$10.5mil (RM6.33mil) were registered in 2020.

Police advised residents to use the force’s Scameter search engine, accessible through the CyberDefender website or app, to check for suspicious or fraudulent schemes.

The search engine contains information that can help the public identify suspicious web addresses, emails, platform usernames, bank accounts and mobile phone numbers and IP addresses. – South China Morning Post


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