HK housewife conned out of HK$65m by phone scammers accusing her of spreading fake news

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The victim had also met the scammers in person in the city and was given a mobile phone to use when contacting them.

A Hong Kong housewife has been swindled out of HK$65 million (US$8.3 million or RM34.97 million) by phone scammers accusing her of spreading fake news about the central government’s measures to fight Covid-19 in mainland China.

The woman – who is in her 40s and lives in Mei Foo Sun Chuen, a private housing estate in Lai Chi Kok – lost more than any other phone scam victim so far this year, forking over all of her savings and even borrowing money from her family to pay the criminals, according to a police source.

The case came to light when the fraudsters approached her husband and tried to swindle money from him as well.

Detectives from the Sham Shui Po district crime squad launched an investigation after the husband made a report to police on Sunday.

Posing as an employee from Beijing’s liaison office in the city, one of the fraudsters called the woman in June last year and accused her of “breaking mainland laws by spreading false news about the anti-pandemic measures in the mainland”.

The call was then transferred to a purported mainland official, who claimed he was a prosecutor in Beijing.

“The victim was told that an arrest warrant for her had been issued by the related authorities,” the source said.

He said the woman was then instructed to transfer money into designated bank accounts in Hong Kong as a surety and for investigative purposes.

“She was also coached to tell bank staff that the money transfer was for doing business if asked,” he said.

The source said the woman had also met the scammers in person in the city and was given a mobile phone to use when contacting them.

Between June of 2021 and March of this year, the woman transferred HK$65 million (RM34.97 million) to several bank accounts in Hong Kong in more than 10 transactions.

According to the force, no arrests have been made. An investigation by the Sham Shui Po district crime squad is under way.

Last month, a 26-year-old mainland student in Hong Kong lost nearly HK$15 million (RM8.07 million) in a phone scam in which con artists posing as government officials accused him of smuggling Covid-19 vaccines.

Though the number of reported phone scams fell by 53 cases to 1,140 last year, the financial losses involved rose by 41%, to HK$810 million (RM435.78 million), with close to 90% of the swindled money being taken by fraudsters pretending to be officials.

A 90-year-old woman living in a mansion on The Peak was conned out of HK$250 million (RM134.50 million) between August 2020 and January 2021 by fraudsters who told her that her identity had been used in a serious criminal case in the mainland, making her the biggest known victim of a phone scam in the city.

She called police in March last year, who were able to recover HK$9 million (RM4.84 million) from bank accounts used by the swindlers. A 19-year-old man was arrested in connection with the case. – SCMP