Crypto-related Scams Rise in Hong Kong, Causing Loss of US$216.6mil

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Cryptocurrency scams have caused losses of more than US$216.6mil (HK$1.7bil) in Hong Kong last year, with a 67% increase in the number of victims compared to the year before.

Data from the police showed that crypto-related fraud accounted for over half of the HK$3.2bil losses reported in nearly 23,000 incidents of technology crime.

Cryptocurrency’s anonymity makes it a difficult asset to trace, potentially making it easier for scammers to conceal their identities when they make transactions.

It is suspected to be one of the reasons why the amount of money stolen through frauds and intercepted by police in 2022 dropped to its lowest level since 2019, down by 43%.

The police’s anti-deception coordination centre has been tracking down illegal funds and identifying new tactics used by swindlers, and said that last year, it intercepted more than HK$1.3bil in scammed money.

The police also issued a fraud alert last month after a woman was tricked out of digital tokens worth HK$6mil. She responded to an online post about the sale of a kitten by a scammer who posed as a pet lover in Thailand, and was asked to pay an upfront fee in cryptocurrency.

A 63-year-old investment manager was also scammed out of HK$12mil he inherited from his late father in a similar way.

Regarding this, the police warned the public to be careful when conducting transactions and investments related to virtual assets such as cryptocurrencies and non-fungible tokens (NFTs), and to never share passwords or private keys with unreliable people.

Aside from crypto-related frauds, online investment scams, employment frauds and online shopping frauds were also prominent in the city. Police said that in the case of employment frauds, the number of victims increased significantly due to “click farming”, where people were promised cash rewards for online shopping.

Romance scams, where victims were tricked into making payments with the promise of a relationship, also caused losses of HK$697mil last year.

The police have launched the “Scameter” search engine to combat online and phone fraud, as well as made efforts to raise public awareness of cybersecurity and technology crime trends.

– South China Morning Post

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