Po­lice bust in­ter­na­tional dat­ing scam syn­di­cate

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By SHADOW LI and LUIS LIU in Hong Kong Con­tact the writ­ers at stushadow@chi­nadai­lyhk.com

Po­lice on Fri­day an­nounced they have busted an in­ter­na­tional syn­di­cate that mas­ter­minded on­line dat­ing scams, cheat­ing vic­tims out of HK$60 mil­lion.

The gang was the big­gest of sim­i­lar groups tar­get­ing Hong Kong women amid a sig­nif­i­cant in­crease of on­line dat­ing scams in re­cent years, ac­cord­ing to the po­lice.

In an un­prece­dented joint op­er­a­tion, the Hong Kong po­lice acted in tan­dem with law en­force­ment au­thor­i­ties in Malaysia and Nige­ria.

The ac­tion in early De­cem­ber in­volved raids on seven places and seizure of 10 lap­tops and other ev­i­dence. It led to the ar­rest of 14 peo­ple in Malaysia, in­clud­ing two king­pins — a 36-year-old Nige­rian man and a 46-year-old Malaysian woman.

Hong Kong alone was vic­tim to 73 on­line dat­ing scams out of 86 plot­ted by the syn­di­cate in­volv­ing a loss of HK$58 mil­lion. The vic­tims, mostly highly ed­u­cated women, are aged between 25 and 73.

Among them the big­gest loser was a mid­dle-aged pro­fes­sional from Hong Kong. The woman was scammed out of HK$9.1 mil­lion be­fore she re­ported the case to po­lice ear­lier this year, ac­cord­ing to Su­per­in­ten­dent Lam Cheuk-ho from the Cy­ber Se­cu­rity and Tech­nol­ogy Crime Bureau of the po­lice.

The woman got to know the scam­mer through an on­line dat­ing plat­form last sum­mer. She found out she had been cheated and sought po­lice help nine months later, Lam said.

Ac­cord­ing to the vic­tim pro­file pre­sented by po­lice, 6 per­cent are highly ed­u­cated pro­fes­sion­als, com­fort­able in the use of English and tech-savvy.

Po­lice re­vealed on­line dat­ing scams have been pick­ing up in re­cent years, with a loss of HK$130 mil­lion in­volv­ing 181 cases recorded between 2014 and Oc­to­ber 2016. In the first 10 months of this year alone, po­lice re­sponded to about 90 cases — more than dou­ble those in 2015.

Po­lice warned the pub­lic not to share per­sonal in­for­ma­tion on so­cial me­dia.

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