Rest of Asia

90-year-old woman loses $32 million in phone scam

AFP/Hong Kong
Filed on April 21, 2021

19-year-old was arrested for the fraud and has been released on bail.

A 90-year-old Hong Kong woman has been conned out of $32million (Dh117 million) by fraudsters posing as officials, police said, in the city's biggest recorded phone scam.

Elderly in Hong Kong are plagued by phone scammers who seek out vulnerable and wealthy victims willing to transfer money or make bogus investments.

Police on Tuesday said scammers targeted an elderly woman living in a mansion on The Peak, Hong Kong's ritziest neighbourhood.

Last summer criminals contacted the unnamed woman pretending to be public security officials. They claimed her identity had been used in a serious criminal case in mainland China.

She was told she needed to transfer money from her bank account into ones held by the investigation team for safekeeping and scrutiny, the South China Morning Post reported, citing police sources.

Police said several days later a person arrived at her house with a dedicated mobile phone and SIM card to communicate with the fake security agents who persuaded her to make a total of 11 bank transfers.

Over five months the elderly lady gave a total of HK$250 million ($32 million) to the scammers, the largest sum recorded yet by a phone con.

Police said the scam was only spotted because the elderly lady's domestic helper thought something suspicious was happening and contacted her employer's daughter who then alerted officers.

After an investigation a 19-year-old was arrested for fraud and has been released on bail, police said.

The South China Morning Post reported that the arrested person is believed to have been the fraudster who turned up at the lady's house with the phone.

Police say such scams are on the rise.

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