7th December 2023 – (Hong Kong) A swindler established a fake exchange shop at Allied Plaza in Prince Edward, specialising in conning unsuspecting victims into transferring cryptocurrency in exchange for purported cash. The criminal targeted a 40-year-old currency trader who urgently needed to liquidate his Tether cryptocurrency. The victim was deceived into believing that the individual running the shop could assist in the transaction. However, after transferring approximately HK$4 million worth of Tether, the victim realized that he had fallen victim to a scam when the swindler refused to pay him the promised cash, prompting him to seek help from law enforcement.
Upon investigation, law enforcement discovered that out of the four sets of bills provided by the suspect, only the bottom two layers were genuine banknotes. The remaining stacks were counterfeit notes. Consequently, the police apprehended a 27-year-old male, who posed as the shop attendant, and a 37-year-old woman who had leased the retail space in Allied Plaza for HK$8,700 per month.
The authorities recovered 4,000 suspected counterfeit notes and 8 genuine HK$1,000 banknotes. They also seized a money-counting machine from the shop. Both suspects were arrested on charges of obtaining property by deception and possessing counterfeit notes. Law enforcement is actively tracing the flow of the cryptocurrency involved in the case and investigating the related cryptocurrency wallet in an effort to prevent the currency from being moved. The case is ongoing, and further arrests are not ruled out.
The fraudulent cryptocurrency exchange was not registered or commercially recorded in Hong Kong. The shop, covering an area of approximately 40 square feet, had a simple interior, with a counter and a banknote verification machine. While there is currently no evidence to suggest the involvement of a criminal syndicate, law enforcement has not received reports from additional victims. Authorities encourage anyone who suspects they may have fallen victim to a similar scam to report it promptly.
Mak Sai-ho, head of the 10th team of the Criminal Investigation Team of Mong Kok Police District, has urged caution when trading in cryptocurrency and advised individuals to choose reputable exchange shops. He emphasized the importance of carefully inspecting banknotes for security features when dealing with large sums of cash and encouraged individuals with suspicions to contact the police’s “Anti-Deception Coordination Centre” hotline at 18222.