90-Year-Old Woman Loses $32 Million In Phone Scam
A 90-year-old Hong Kong woman has lost $32 million after being targeted by phone scammers.
We’ve all been on the end of some particularly alarming phone scams, whether it’s someone allegedly from the HMRC warning you of legal action or your ‘internet provider’ threatening to turn off your WiFi due to suspicious activity. They’ve all got one intention: making you part with your cash.
However, one elderly woman living in a mansion on The Peak, said to be Hong Kong’s wealthiest area, bore the brunt of the city’s highest-recorded scam.
The woman had been contacted by criminals claiming to be Chinese public security officials last summer, who told her she was the subject of a serious money-laundering investigation, The Guardian reports.
According to the South China Morning Post, she was then advised to move money from her account into ones being held by the investigation team for safekeeping and scrutiny.
A few days later, a man identifying himself as a law enforcement official visited her home with a dedicated phone and SIM card to communicate with the scammers, who later coaxed her into making 11 separate payments. Over the course of five months, she transferred more than HK$250 million ($32 million), the largest sum recorded as part of a phone scam.
A police source told the outlet: ‘She was told her identity was used in a serious criminal case in mainland China. She was then instructed to transfer her money to designated bank accounts to investigate whether the cash was the proceeds of crime. She was promised that all the money would be given back to her after the investigation.’
If it hadn’t been for the woman’s domestic helper, who suspected something sketchy was going on, the scam would have likely continued. Police arrested a 19-year-old man on March 25, who’s since been released on bail.
In the first quarter of 2021 alone, phone scams rose from 169 to 200, an 18% compared to same period last year. According to police, HK$350 million ($45 million) has already been lost to the hands of fraudsters this year.
Police handled nearly 1,200 cases of phone scams across 2020, with criminals believe to have pocketed HK$574 million ($74 million). With phone fraud being a trans-jurisdictional crime, scammers often phone from a location outside Hong Kong.
In October last year, a 65-year-old from Yuen Long was the victim of a phone scam, losing nearly HK$69 million ($9 million) after similar accusations of money laundering. Three men have since been arrested in connection with the case.
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