Hong Kong – A 90-year-old Hong Kong woman was cheated by $ 32 million by fraudsters posing as Chinese officials, police said, in the biggest telephone scam on record in the city. Hong Kong’s elderly are plagued by telephone scammers looking for vulnerable and wealthy victims willing to transfer money or make false investments.
Police said on Tuesday that the scammers were targeting an elderly woman who lived in a mansion in The Peak, Hong Kong’s most upscale neighborhood.
Last summer, criminals contacted the unidentified woman pretending to be a Chinese public safety official. They claimed that his identity had been used in a serious criminal case in mainland China.
They said she needed to transfer money from her bank account to one held by the investigation team for protection and scrutiny, the South China Morning Post reported, citing police sources.
Police said that several days later, a person arrived at his home with a dedicated cell phone and a SIM card to communicate with the fake security agents who persuaded him to make a total of 11 bank transfers.
Over the course of five months, the elderly lady gave a total of HK $ 250 million ($ 32 million) to the scammers, the largest sum ever recorded by a telephone scam.
The police said the scam was only detected because the lady’s maid thought something suspicious was going on and contacted her boss’s daughter, who alerted the police.
After an investigation, a 19-year-old was arrested for fraud and released on bail, police said.
The South China Morning Post reported that the person arrested is believed to be the fraudster who showed up at the lady’s house with the phone.
Rich Hong Kong is one of the most unequal places on the planet.
It has one of the largest concentrations of billionaires, many of whom live in palatial homes overlooking densely populated neighborhoods, where poor families can squeeze into an apartment the size of an American parking space.
With such a high concentration of wealthy elderly residents, the city is a mature target for telephone scammers, many of whom operate in mainland China.
The police say these scams are increasing.
Reports of telephone scams increased 18% in the first quarter of 2021, with fraudsters pocketing about HK $ 350 million in the period.
In 2020, police said they handled 1,193 cases of telephone fraud in which a total of HK $ 574 million was stolen.
Last year, a 65-year-old woman was stolen from HK $ 68.9 million after a similar scheme in which people posed as security officers from the continent.