20th November 2023 – (Hong Kong) Law enforcement agencies in Hong Kong received reports of a scam in which fraudsters used social media pages to advertise the sale of “dog meat.” The scammers created social media accounts. They lured customers into downloading fraudulent mobile apps or making payments through false links, ultimately leading to financial losses and stolen personal information. The police suspect that these criminals aimed to exploit the public’s desire to support animal welfare causes. So far, 11 cases of fraud have been reported, resulting in losses exceeding HK$1.36 million.
One victim, a man in his 60s, was swindled out of HK$415,000. No arrests have been made in connection with the case, according to police sources. The investigation revealed no evidence of actual dog meat sales in the scam. The scammers also attempted to incite public criticism and deceive animal lovers into contacting the sellers. The scam involved an Android app that required a HK$30 deposit through the Faster Payment System. However, smartphone users with different operating systems were instructed to make the payment to Hong Kong Homeless Dog Shelter (HKHDS) based on the FPS ID displayed. The animal protection group clarified that their bank account had been compromised and firmly stated that HKHDS has never been involved in any dog meat trade. The organisation condemned the malicious act and expressed its intention to take legal action.
The fraudsters enticed potential victims by advertising various services and products on platforms like Facebook and Instagram, including food, travel packages, car rentals, and spa services. Interested individuals were directed to communicate through WhatsApp or asked to provide their contact details. Through WhatsApp conversations, the scammers would send files or links to download and install malicious apps, falsely claiming they were necessary for placing orders. These deceptive apps disguised themselves as e-commerce platforms, often changing names. Some apps even impersonated popular food delivery platforms.
Once users downloaded the apps, they were prompted to pay a small delivery fee. At this stage, the victims were directed to select their bank and input their usernames, passwords, and six-digit security codes (PINs). Since the malicious apps required complete control over the victims’ smartphones, the fraudsters gained access to all the information entered by the victims. They remotely controlled the victims’ devices and used the provided data to log into their bank accounts, transferring funds out of their accounts. Law enforcement agencies are closely monitoring the suspected fraudulent mobile apps and social media pages to prevent more individuals from falling victim to these scams. The case is believed to involve transnational elements, and information sharing with overseas law enforcement agencies is underway to gather intelligence and potentially take coordinated action against the syndicate.
To avoid falling victim to scams, individuals are advised to exercise caution and refrain from downloading third-party applications of unknown origin. Immediate action should be taken if suspicious apps have been installed, including restoring smartphones to their factory settings. Additionally, it is important not to easily trust social media posts and to remain vigilant when sharing personal or financial information online.