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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Swindlers dupe Hong Kong man out of HK$2.5 million with fake job as ‘click farmer’

Swindlers dupe Hong Kong man out of HK$2.5 million with fake job as ‘click farmer’

Merchant, 43, was told to buy items from bogus website run by scammers to increase sales and traffic, with swindlers offering HK$400 commission.

Swindlers conned a Hong Kong merchant out of more than HK$2.5 million (US$318,953) after he accepted a fake job as a “click farmer” that offered a HK$400 commission, police said on Wednesday.

The 43-year-old man, who runs a city-based company, became embroiled in the scam after he responded to a WhatsApp message advertising the part-time job.

The merchant was told to buy items from a bogus website run by the scammers to increase its sales and traffic. The swindlers promised to pay the man back and give him a commission.

“The victim was offered HK$400 as commission at the beginning,” the force said.

A similar post sent to other Hong Kong residents said: “We’ve taken notice of your work experiences and resume listed on multiple online agencies such as LinkedIn, JobsDB & HK Indeed.”

“We’re keen to offer you something on a part-time basis that you could do in your free time. The daily wage could go as high as HK$1,000 to HK$3,000 per day. Not only this but we will settle all wages on the day itself.”

A police source said the scam was a form of online employment fraud known as click farming or “boosting sales”.

Some of the messages sent in the recent case came from a phone number with the India country code, but they could have been from other locations, the insider added.

Police handled 2,493 reports of bogus employment offers in the first 10 months of 2022.

“To attract targets, scammers usually offer high salaries or work-from-home arrangements to those who responded to the message, but requirements relating to academic qualifications or work experience are not needed,” the source said.

“Once in touch, they then invent different excuses to lure their targets into making advance payments or other fees. After receiving the money, they will not be reachable.”

Another source familiar with the case said the man had been coaxed into making 35 transactions with a total value of HK$2.56 million into a designated bank account.

The merchant realised it was a scam when he was unable to reach the fraudsters after he demanded the commission payments and the return of his money. He called police on Tuesday afternoon.

The force has classified the case as “obtaining property by deception”, an offence punishable by up to 10 years in jail.

Detectives from Central’s criminal investigation unit are handling the case. No arrests have been made so far.

Police between January and October last year handled 2,493 reports of bogus employment offers, a 200 per cent rise from the 814 cases logged over the same period in 2021.

The first source said most of last year’s cases involved click farming scams.

The total amount lost by victims also jumped by 595 per cent to HK$386 million in the first 10 months of last year from HK$55 million over the same period in 2021.

The force explained fraudsters post job advertisements on a variety of social media platforms, forums and instant messaging apps and used several pretexts to lure jobseekers into payment of fees, guarantee fees or other payments.

“After snatching the money, fraudsters will be out of contact,” the police’s website said.

The force also appealed to the public to contact its 24-hour anti-scam helpline on 18222 to report suspected fraud.

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