Cryptocurrency fraud made up a significant portion of the money scammed by cybercrime in Hong Kong in the first half of 2022, police have revealed.
Wilson Fan Chun-yip, acting senior superintendent of the Bureau of Cybersecurity and Technology Crimes, said 10,613 cybercrimes involving about HK$1.58 billion (RM897.06 million) were registered between January and June. The number marks a 46% increase from the 7,270 cases recorded in the same period last year.
Among them were 798 cryptocurrency-related scams, a 105% increase from the same months in 2021. They affected HK$387.9 million (RM220.23 million), a 130% increase from the more than HK$170 million (RM96.51 million) cheated first half of last year.
In March this year, a 30-year-old woman who runs an exchange office that also exchanges cash for cryptocurrencies was scammed out of HK$2.2 million (RM1.24 million). The victim received an anonymous WhatsApp message from someone claiming to be in charge of an online cryptocurrency trading platform and seeking cooperation.
“The first four transactions to exchange (cryptocurrency) Tether went smoothly,” said Fan. “The victim received HK$2.7 million (RM1.53 million) including payment to her for the exchange service she provided to the scammer. At that point, the scammer gained the victim’s trust.”
In the fifth and final transaction, the victim transferred HK$2.2 million (RM1.24 million) worth of Tether to a designated cryptocurrency wallet, as requested by the scammer. She never heard from him again and subsequently reported the incident to authorities.
According to police, job fraud and online shopping scams were the other two notable forms of fraudulent online activity in the city. Along with cryptocurrency-related scams, they formed the three most common types of cybercrime in Hong Kong.
Job fraud has also risen significantly, from 350 cases at HK$20.3 million (RM11.52 million) in the first half of last year to 1,625 cases at HK$211.6 million (RM120.13 million) in this year.
In one case, a woman lost over HK$3 million (RM1.70 million) in a scam to work as a click farmer for a film website.
She received an anonymous message on the messaging platform Telegram from someone who claimed to be hiring part-time “click farmers”. The term refers to people who are tasked with clicking links online to help businesses or individuals gain money or influence.
The 48-year-old secretary was told all she had to do was transfer money to certain accounts to get a “mission,” something akin to clicking a like on a movie website, to boost viewership.
Each “mission” would earn her a 1.3% commission on the amount in question, which she would receive after completing 45 missions along with the money initially transferred. All she had to do was open an online account linked to her own bank account for her to be able to receive this salary.
Lured by the offer, she gave the scammer behind the scammer her contact details and did as she was told.
“In the beginning, each mission cost only several hundred dollars, and the victim saw her bank account increase, so no doubt she kept paying for missions,” Fan said.
Over time, missions started to cost more. When the victim demanded the return of the money she transferred, the scammer refused, suggesting that she had not met the criteria by completing 45 missions.
By her 42nd mission, she had already shelled out more than HK$3.5 million (RM1.98 million), a sum she had raised through loans from family and friends. She realized she had been scammed and went to the police.
Meanwhile, there were more cases of online shopping fraudulent activity in the first six months of this year, rising by 41% to 3,954 cases. That surge comes even as the amount at stake has dropped from HK$46 million (RM26.11 million) to HK$36.2 million (RM20.55 million).
“There was less money involved, but that’s probably because there were fewer high-volume cases. But online shopping has become second nature for Hong Kongers, especially in light of the Covid-19 pandemic,” Fan said. “Scammers and unscrupulous sellers are taking advantage of this and infiltrating various social and shopping platforms to scam people out of money or sell fake products to sell.”
Fan urged consumers to remain vigilant when shopping online, especially when presented with seemingly attractive offers such as discounted theme park tickets or hotel stays.
Of the scams surrounding online shopping, transactions made through real-name registered Faster Payment System (FPS) accounted for the largest share, accounting for 66.8 percent of cases.
Fan pointed out that scammers can use a foreign ID card to register an asset, which can then be linked to FPS for instant transactions. He reminded people not to sell their bank accounts or give anyone access to them, for money or not, under any circumstances.
“In general, we face many challenges when investigating technology crimes due to the anonymous and cross-border nature of the cases,” he said. – South China tomorrow post