Cash swept up from scam 'brushers'
At least 68 people have been conned out of HK$7.5 million in the latest "brushing" employment ruse, but six scammers have been arrested.
In online selling, "brushers" are hired by online sellers to generate faked purchases to boost transaction numbers so they can jack up their sales figures in appealing to customers. Brushers then collect commissions.
But in the latest case the brushers were victims, having used their own money to make purchases and failed to collect any commission or refunds.
The six suspects - five men and one woman aged between 18 and 69 - were arrested for conspiracy to defraud in an operation codenamed "Splitsound" carried out by police on Monday.
Among them were two core members of the racket - a 22-year-old man named Mak and a 57-year-old man named Ngan.
"Mak claimed he fell victim to separate online scams earlier and thought that the rewards he gained from carrying out scams for the racket could make up his losses," police said.
"As a result, he had set both traditional and online bank accounts to pocket proceeds of the scams within a short period of time. This was linked to 38 scams involving around HK$3.78 million."
Officers also said Ngan, who allegedly operated an unlicensed yuan money changing online, sent HK$1 million of the proceeds to a mainland bank account.
The other suspects used their own bank accounts to process proceeds of the scams in exchange for rewards from the racketeers.
Chief inspector Chiew Tsi-huen of the New Territories south regional crime unit said the suspects included a merchant, a retiree and tertiary student.
Chiew said the scams were committed between September and this month, and one brusher was conned of up to HK$400,000.
Another was a 28-year-old accountant who was arrested for allegedly stealing nearly HK$2 million in funds from her company for brushing activities in December.
Cyber security and technology crime bureau chief inspector Cheung Wai-ho said the racket lured victims into shopping on various online platforms using their own money to brush up the sales figures of specific online sellers.
"It also promised to return deposits and give a commission of 5 to 12 percent."
Cheung said the racketeers told people to deposit earnings into bank accounts.
Police retrieved six computers, seven routers, HK$210,000 in cash and 48 debit cards during the operation.
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