A Hong Kong man was arrested on Friday over an online shopping scam in which he blamed the coronavirus pandemic for delaying the delivery of goods he never sent, police have said.
At least 16 people, aged 18 to 46, were victims of the scheme and a total of HK$75,000 (US$9,600) was stolen from the prospective buyers over several months last year.
The 31-year-old, arrested by police on suspicion of obtaining property by deception, used online platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Carousell to attract buyers.
Police said they received a number of reports between January and March this year from people who complained that they had bought toys or models online between March and November 2020.
The suspect was accused of taking the money from his victims, before promising to send them the goods they ordered.
“After the victims transferred the money to the designated account, [they] failed to receive the goods they ordered, nor were [they] able to contact the person in charge of the relevant online store, and reported the case [to police] suspected of being deceived,” police said.
The suspect would blame the pandemic for delivery delays and subsequently lose contact with his victims.
Officers found that the man was in charge of the online shop and so far have been able to identify 16 victims.
Various pieces of evidence, including a mobile phone and other items relevant to the case, were also seized.
He was released on bail pending further investigation and must report back to police in late April.
Members of the public have been urged to report to police if they encountered similar experiences while purchasing toys or models from online platforms.
Police urged the public to always go to reputable merchants or choose cash-on-delivery or in-person delivery methods to avoid fraud when shopping online.
The number of shopping scams in the city tripled in 2020 from the previous year, with con artists duping mask buyers out of more than HK$74 million.
In 2020, a record 15,553 deception cases were registered, almost double that of the previous year. Police attributed the jump to an uptick in online shopping frauds, which tripled from 2,194 cases in 2019 to 6,678 in 2020.
Officers attributed the skyrocketing figures to a rising number of people who opted to stay at home or work from home amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
The overall number of crimes reported in 2020 rose by 6.8 per cent to 63,232, while the total detection rate increased slightly to 37.8 per cent from 37.1 per cent.
I have wondered at times what the Ten Commandments would have looked like if Moses had run them through the US Congress.