Five in sex and dating scam arrested
Police believe they have smashed a syndicate offering sex and companionship for money following the arrest of five men who allegedly conned 11 men - mostly youngsters - out of HK$2.8 million in a series of "compensated dating" scams.
Police said that of the 858 compensated dating scams recorded last year, 97 percent of the victims were male.
Of these, 15 percent were between 10 and 19, about half were between 20 and 29, and 24 percent were students.
The five suspects, aged between 22 and 57, were arrested for obtaining property by deception and money laundering in an operation codenamed "Topshield" on Tuesday.
Of the suspects, three were being detained for questioning as of last night, while the rest have been released on bail and must report to the police in April.
During Tuesday's operation, police seized a computer, a tablet, 12 mobile phones and eight debit and credit cards.
Cybersecurity and Technology Crime Bureau chief inspector Tai Tze-bun said the scams were committed between October 2019 and last November, during which 11 men aged between 21 and 35 were scammed. One victim lost up to HK$993,000 after a con man posing as a model befriended him on social media and proposed a compensated dating relationship.
Tai said members of the syndicate - with the five suspects among them - were responsible for opening bank accounts and activating stored value facilities for pocketing the proceeds.
"Some also approached the victims about 'compensated dating' services on social media," he said.
"The rest would talk the victims into paying a deposit before a meet-up via messaging apps."
Senior inspector Poon Lok-shun of the same bureau said the way the victims paid the deposit ranged from purchasing point cards for online games, paying in virtual currency or making a transfer to bank accounts controlled by the syndicate.
"In the meantime, members of the syndicate lured the victims into providing personal information on the excuse that it was for verifying their identity," Poon said.
But the syndicate delayed the meet-up until after the victims made the deposit, and kept extorting them by threatening to reveal their personal information, he said.
Police also said that the 858 "compensated dating" scams recorded last year were a 12.7 percent increase from 761 in 2019. The amount of loss also rose 8.1 percent to HK$32 million from HK$29.6 million during that same period.
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When you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self-sacrifice, you may know that your society is doomed