• Wed. Apr 24th, 2024

Hong Kong finance manager loses HK$17.8 million after investing in gold and cryptocurrency via sham platform

A finance manager in Hong Kong has been scammed out of more than HK$17 million (US$2,173,500) while investing in gold and cryptocurrency via a sham trading platform, after falling for a HK$2.6 million “profit” bait, the Post has learned.

The 57-year-old woman received her “profit” for her initial three months of investment through more than 10 transactions transferred into her bank account, a source familiar with the case said on Wednesday.

“The payment was designed to deceive the victim into believing it was a legitimate trading platform, and also used as bait to entice her into making further trades and investing more money,” the insider said.

A bitcoin signage on a store in Tsim Sha Tsui. Police handled 5,105 reports of online investment fraud in 2023. Photo: Xiaomei Chen

The woman, who is a finance and administration manager, realised she had been scammed when she was unable to withdraw the money from the trading platform, which was later revealed to be fraudulent. She then filed a police report on Valentine’s Day last week.

She became the target of the scam when she received an Instagram message in March last year from a person claiming to be from Singapore and who had previously been the victim’s business partner. They then continued their communication through the messaging app “Line”.

The woman was tricked into setting up an account on a bogus trading website to invest gold and cryptocurrency, according to the force.

“The victim was coaxed into transferring HK$12.5 million into 29 bank accounts in Hong Kong for her investment in 45 transactions between May last year and February this year,” police said.

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The source said the victim received HK$2.6 million in so-called profits during the first few months of her investments.

“In September, the woman was informed that the scammer was involved in a legal lawsuit in Singapore and needed financial assistance from her,” he said.

As instructed, the victim transferred HK$7.9 million into three designated virtual currency wallets, according to police.

When the victim tried subsequently to withdraw HK$1.2 million from her account with the sham platform, she was asked to pay HK$1 million as “administration fee” for the withdrawal of the fund.

She did not comply with the instruction and was later unable to access the trading website.

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Police said the victim lost HK$17.8 million in total.

Nine of the bank accounts used to collect money from the victim were previously associated with other scams and had been flagged in the force’s anti-fraud Scameter search engine database, according to the source.

“If the victim had used the Scameter to check before making the money transfers, she could have avoided the losses,” the insider said.

The Scameter search engine, accessible via the CyberDefender website, provides information to help the public identify suspicious web addresses, emails, platform usernames, bank accounts and mobile phone numbers or IP addresses.

Police handled 5,105 reports of online investment fraud last year, an increase of 170 per cent from 1,884 cases logged in 2022. Financial losses involved also rose by 250 per cent to HK$3.2 billion last year from HK$926 million.

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