Posing as mainland Chinese officials, scammers are using the draconian national security law to swindle millions from victims.
Police have received reports of 15 cases of a new con scheme, where victims were accused of breaking the legislation and asked to deposit money to prove their innocence. In one case, a 65-year-old retiree lost up to HK$2.2 million (US$283,203). No one has been arrested so far.
In April, a 70-year-old, surnamed Chan, received repeated calls from a man, who claimed to be an officer and accused her of violating the national security law by spreading messages about Hong Kong independence through her phone. She was asked to open an online account at another bank and deposit savings worth HK$9 million there. She also had to purchase a phone and download an application, where she inputted the account number and password, in order to facilitate contact and investigation.
“They sent me my photo, an arrest warrant signed by the court as well as identity documents of the officers, so I was led to believe it was real,” said Chan.
The fraudsters spoke to her for hours during the process. “The phone calls never stopped and they claimed the conversations were being recorded,” she said. “They did not sound intimidating, instead they studied how I might have passed my personal information to others. I felt as though they were helping me.”
She was told that the case was confidential and she must not disclose it to anyone. Over the course of a week, she was asked to report her location every three hours. “They kept reminding me if I refused to cooperate, I would be immediately arrested. They could be at my door within two hours,” she recalled.
Scammers also helped her repay around HK$30,000 of bank penalty as she withdrew HK$9 million from her time deposit. “I was told I was assisting the Chinese government in investigation so they would foot the bill,” Chan said.
She did not fall for the scheme in the end as the bank staffers alerted the police.
Mok Tsz-wai, chief inspector of the Kowloon East regional crime unit, said phone scammers had their victims download malicious applications and input their bank account numbers and passwords in order to withdraw the money. “Whether they are using the national security law or other excuses, the best way against phone scams is to end the call immediately,” he added.
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