An Indian woman based in Hong Kong became the city’s latest phone scam victim after a fraudster posing as a consulate official asked her to transfer USD 2,300 as part of her visa application.
The 27-year-old woman studying for a PhD reported the case to police on Friday after the Indian consulate here told her its office had not asked her to transfer any money for her application, the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported today.
The victim first received a call on Monday from someone claiming to be “a consulate staff member” who told her she supplied incorrect information on her visa application.
She was told over the phone to transfer money to an Indian bank account.
It is unclear what kind of visa application she had submitted and how the scammers knew about her submission. But police described such cases involving foreign victims and fake consulate workers as rare, noting phone scammers normally posed as local or mainland security officials and accused victims of breaking the law. They then asked for money as a surety or used other ruses.
“The scammer, communicating in English, told her the date of birth on her form was completed in the wrong format,” a police source said.
“She was then told to transfer the sum to an Indian bank account so that lawyers in the country could help her resolve the problem.
“She called the diplomatic office a few days later to check on the progress of her application. That is how she realised she’d been scammed,” he said.
Police recorded four similar cases of Indian nationals in Hong Kong between February and April of last year, the Post report said.
Scammers who spoke fluent English posed as staff members from the Home Affairs Department and told victims they were being fined for giving incorrect information to Indian authorities.
Figures from the security bureau showed the number of cases relating to phone deception fell 10 per cent in the first 10 months of last year to 803 but that financial losses increased to HKD 200 million (Hong Kong dollars).
Around 70 per cent of the cases involved bogus mainland government officials. Police have arrested 11 people in connection with 29 cases.
The biggest case recorded last year involved about HKD 31 million. In May, a 52-year-old chief financial officer of a multinational company received a call from someone posing as the company’s CEO. She was told to transfer USD 3.98 million to a mainland Chinese bank account.
The victim realised she had been scammed when she spoke to the real CEO. Police froze about HKD 20 million in the culprit’s bank account, the report said.