Two Hongkongers have lost nearly HK$10 million (US$1.3 million) in total after being lured into investing in cryptocurrency and mainland Chinese stocks in separate cases.
A police source on Thursday said one of the victims was a 66-year-old businesswoman who fell prey to a scam after she responded to a WhatsApp message from a bogus cryptocurrency “expert” in December.
The insider said the victim was lured into investing in the digital coin Tether with the promise of high returns.
An investigation found the account details of the victim’s cryptocurrency wallet were stolen after she was coaxed into clicking a hyperlink and entering personal information, the source said.
She was told the so-called expert needed the details to pay her the profit she had made. But the hyperlink led her to an online platform controlled by scammers, who collected her confidential data.
“In the first transaction, she was given HK$78,000 in profit,” he said, adding that the payment was used to convince her it was a genuine investment and help lower her guard.
She realised it was a scam when she discovered that more than 590,000 Tether coins, which were worth more than HK$4.6 million, had been transferred to another cryptocurrency wallet in 15 transactions between January 27 and March 31.
She called police on April 12 after being unable to reach the person she had been in contact with.
Six days later, a 71-year-old man called police after he was swindled out of HK$5.15 million in another investment fraud.
He fell victim to the scam in January after responding to an online message sent from a person posing as an employee of a licensed financial investment trading platform.
He was lured into downloading a bogus trading platform to invest in mainland stocks, according to the force.
As instructed, the man transferred HK$5.15 million into nine bank accounts, police said.
When he requested to cash out with his profits, he found he was unable to access the platform and retrieve the money. He then called police.
Police handled 1,884 cases of online investment fraud last year, up 92 per cent from 980 logged in 2021. The money involved also rose by 96 per cent to HK$926 million in 2022 from HK$472 million in 2021.
Separately, a 37-year-old woman called police on Thursday after she lost HK$800,000 in a common online employment fraud, known as click farming.
In the first two weeks of April, 196 people were swindled out of more than HK$40 million after they were tricked by the same type of employment scam. The spate of cases sparked a police warning to jobseekers to be wary of the ruse – a tactic designed to lure victims into carrying out fake promotions to earn commission.
Police last year handled 27,923 deception cases of all types where people were swindled out of a total of HK$4.8 billion.
More than 70 per cent of last year’s cases were internet related, with 22,797 reports of technology crime that resulted in losses of HK$3.2 billion. Phone scammers cheated victims out of more than HK$1 billion in 2,831 cases.