Female finance manager falls victim to elaborate online investment scam, loses HK$17.8 million

666
AI-generated image for illustration purpose only.

21st February 2024 – (Hong Kong) A 57-year-old finance manager from Hong Kong has been defrauded of a staggering HK$17.8 million in an elaborate online investment scam. The victim, whose identity remains protected, was lured into a fraudulent scheme by an individual posing as a former business associate through Instagram.

The scam unfolded over several months, starting in May last year and continuing through February this year. The perpetrator initially enticed the victim with promises of high returns on investments in gold and cryptocurrencies. The finance manager was coaxed into making a series of transactions totalling approximately HK$12.5 million across 45 transfers to 29 different local bank accounts, all under the pretext of investing.

In a cunning move to gain the victim’s trust, the fraudster disbursed about HK$2.6 million in ‘investment profits’ to her through over ten bank accounts, suggesting a semblance of legitimacy to the scheme. However, the situation took a turn when the so-called business partner claimed his businesses in Singapore were embroiled in legal disputes and requested an additional HK$7.9 million for assistance, which the victim provided, including the previously received ‘profits’.

Upon attempting to withdraw an approximate sum of HK$1.2 million in capital from the fictitious investment site, the victim was confronted with a demand for an administrative fee of close to HK$1 million. After refusing to pay this fee, she found herself unable to access the website, leading her to suspect foul play and consequently report the matter to the authorities.

The police, upon initial investigation, have classified the case as ‘obtaining property by deception’, a serious offence under Hong Kong’s Theft Ordinance, which carries a maximum penalty of ten years’ imprisonment. The case has been taken over by the Tuen Mun Police District’s Technology Crime and Wealth Investigation Team. During their inquiries, it was found that six of the bank accounts provided for the transfers were previously implicated in other scam cases and had been recorded in the police’s anti-fraud app database.

The police force has reiterated the severity of the crime of ‘obtaining property by deception’ and warns the public against testing the law. Citizens are urged to remain vigilant against such fraudulent schemes and are advised to immediately report any suspicions to the Anti-Deception Coordination Centre’s hotline.