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Sunday, Feb 25, 2024

Woman loses $9.6m in scam heartbreak

A 51-year-old retired Hong Kong woman was conned more than HK$9.6 million by a love scammer posting as a patient in Poland with terminal cancer in the SAR's latest romance scam, police said yesterday.
The victim, surnamed Cheung, reported to the police on January 13 that she had transferred HK$9.64 million over a period of 10 months to her virtual boyfriend to pay for his "organ transplant".

She told police the scammer claimed that he was a Korean working in Poland as an engineer and was suffering from lung cancer and would die if he's unable to have an organ transplant.

Cheung, a retiree living in the Southern district on the Island, met her online "lover" through Instagram in September 2021.

Police said that the scammer told her he was a cancer patient soon after they met and that the two continued to contact on WhatsApp.

The man later told Cheung he needed money urgently for an emergency transplant, if not he would die.

Police said that between September 2021 and February 2022, Cheung was instructed to transfer HK$7.78 million into eight designated bank accounts in Hong Kong in 35 transactions.

In May last year, the scammer told her he had only three months to live and would transfer all his US$6 million assets to her.

However, she had to pay HK$2 million administration fee for the transfer.

Cheung paid the "fee" in nine more transactions to two bank accounts from May to July 2022. The scammer disappeared afterwards.

It was not until the scammer cut contact with Cheung that she realized she had fallen victim.

The case was classified as "obtaining property by deception" punishable by a maximum of 10 years in jail. Investigation by District Investigation Team 2 of Western District is underway with no arrest being made as of yesterday.

In the first 10 months of 2022, a total of 1,309 online romance scam reports were made to the police, a 4.6 percent drop from the same period of 2021.

However, the total amount lost increased by one fifth to HK$580 million. One of the victims lost HK$15 million, the highest for a single case.

Police said that over half of the cases were related to investment and administration fees was a common excuse used by the scams in cheating victims.

Saturday last week, police received a similar online love scam report by a 39-year-old female teacher claiming to have been cheated HK$3.2 million by her virtual "Portuguese boyfriend" whom she met on dating app Coffee Meets Bagel last year.

The victim transferred the sum to support the jewelry business of her "boyfriend" from December 2022 to January 2023, reporting her plight to the police after the man cut contact with her.
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