16th March 2023 – (Hong Kong) Police carried out an anti-fraud operation today which successfully dismantled an active local fraud syndicate. The group is suspected of impersonating various member platforms and sending mass text messages to lure citizens into clicking on phishing websites, thus deceiving them into providing their credit card information. They would then use the stolen information to make purchases and resell items for profit. The operation saw personnel deployed to multiple locations including Yuen Long, Cheung Sha Wan, Sau Mau Ping, Wong Tai Sin, Western District, Hung Hom, Tin Shui Wai, and Sha Tin, resulting in the arrest of 6 men and 4 women (aged between 16 to 48) on suspicion of “conspiracy to defraud.” The arrested individuals include key members of the syndicate. Four computers, 14 mobile phones, and three routers were also seized during the operation. Those arrested are currently in custody for investigation and the operation is ongoing, with the possibility of further arrests.
Investigators noted the activities of the syndicate in Hong Kong since November of last year. The group produced counterfeit websites resembling those of telecommunication companies and sent related links via text messages to the public, falsely claiming that their membership points were about to expire. They then enticed citizens to visit the fake websites and exchange their points for gifts. On the fake websites, the syndicate used a HK$1 processing fee as an excuse to induce individuals to provide their personal information, credit card details and one-time verification code. The syndicate members would then bind the stolen credit card information to their mobile e-wallets and use other accomplices, known as “drivers,” to make purchases throughout Hong Kong, reselling the items for profit, including household appliances, mobile phones, game consoles, and game point cards.
Investigators believe that the syndicate distributed over 5,000 fraudulent text messages from December to February of this year, involving at least 170 cases with a total loss of up to HK$2 million. The largest case involved a loss of over HK$10,000.