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The Hong Kong Police has advised the public to remain cautious when meeting people online due to the rising number of phishing attacks, romance scams, and e-banking fraud.
According to the Hong Kong Police, romance scams doubled between 2020 and 2021. In particular, 822 cases that involved romance scams were reported in the first half of this year, crossing the 429 cases that were reported in the same period in 2020.
Additionally, 74 reports were made regarding e-banking fraud in Hong Kong between January and June 2021. Most victims were scammed through phishing or smishing attacks that appeared to be from their banks. The victims were then tricked into revealing personal data, which the scammers used to steal from their accounts. No such reports were made over the same period last year.
This disclosure comes as a result of a recent incident where a businessman was conned out of HK$2.2 million (USD 282,460) after falling victim to a romance scam.
The French businessman, aged 53, asserted that he lost his life savings worth HK$2.2 million after befriending a woman in Shenzhen who chatted with him for two months before persuading him to invest his money into some Hong Kong stocks, says the South China Morning Post.
The victim says that he did not spot any red flags when the 35-year-old stranger claiming to be from Shenzhen befriended him in March over the social networking platform, LinkedIn. Not long after he invested his savings, he became the victim of a “pump and dump” scam. In such scams, fraudsters with considerable holdings of specific low-priced stocks spend time gaining their victims’ trust before persuading them to invest.
Phishing cases surfaced this year, with the Hong Kong Monetary Authority recording a total of HK$22 million stolen from 111 bank customers from January to June.
The Police has appealed to the public to remain cautious when meeting people online and avoid revealing confidential information or sharing photographs.
“Do not respond to suspicious requests by online friends who ask to borrow money or request fund transfers for all sorts of reasons,” a police spokesman said.