29th November 2023 – (Hong Kong) Government agencies have taken multiple measures, including public education, intelligence analysis, and cross-border cooperation, to address the global issue of online scams. Law enforcement has intensified its efforts and successfully apprehended 4,279 individuals involved in various types of fraud cases this year, representing a significant 50% increase compared to the same period last year. Recently, authorities have also made their first application to the court to seek enhanced penalties for cases involving dummy accounts used to collect fraudulent funds, aiming to deter activities related to renting, borrowing, and purchasing such accounts.
In response to the surge in fraudulent activities, telecommunication companies have complied with the requests of law enforcement agencies. They have implemented voice or text reminders for users receiving calls from overseas, leading to the temporary suspension of over 400,000 local telephone lines as of the end of October this year. Since the implementation of mandatory registration for SIM cards in February, telecommunication providers have been actively scrutinising and verifying suspicious prepaid phone cards. Consequently, over 1.3 million phone cards have been cancelled or refused registration. Law enforcement agencies have acted upon reports from telecommunication companies, resulting in the arrest of individuals suspected of using false identification documents to register large numbers of phone cards.
The Hong Kong Monetary Authority and the banking industry have also launched several collaborative initiatives to combat fraud. These include the Fraud Alert Program and the Wealth Information Exchange Platform. Recently, the anti-fraud server has been integrated with the Faster Payment System. When citizens use the system to transfer funds to suspicious accounts, they receive a warning message, reminding them to avoid falling victim to scams. The Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data has undertaken a series of anti-fraud awareness campaigns, including a hotline for personal data protection and the release of instructional videos on safeguarding personal information. Additionally, law enforcement agencies have collaborated with universities to develop a suspicious email detection system, assisting small and medium-sized enterprises in identifying potentially fraudulent emails. However, it should be emphasized that the first and last line of defence against scams lies in the awareness and vigilance of the citizens themselves.