Hong Kong, Mainland Chinese Police Arrest 17 Suspects In Connection With 149 Online Fraud Cases, Including Writers Of Scripted Scam Dialogue/Scripts
Joint Hong Kong & PRC operation breaks up a major group believed to have carried out online scams, including so-called naked chat blackmail, cheating victims out of HK$68.2 million. Writers of scripted dialogue for scammers among those arrested in Hong Kong
Hong Kong and mainland Chinese police have arrested 17 members of a syndicate suspected to be involved in at least 149 online fraud cases, including writers who provided scripted dialogue for swindlers to trick victims.
The suspects, who were arrested in the joint operation, included 12 Hongkongers aged between 18 and 57.
The 10 men and two women were arrested over conspiracy to defraud and launder HK$35 million from a total of HK$68.2 million (US$8.7 million) cheated out of the victims.
Five of the suspects based in Hong Kong were believed to be masterminds and key members of the fraud syndicate, according to police.
Meanwhile, law enforcement over the border smashed the group’s operation center and arrested five mainland men aged between 21 and 28.
The mainland team was mainly responsible for contacting and blackmailing the victims and offering technical support, police said. The men were also believed to have written materials such as text message dialogue templates for so-called naked chat scams, which involve enticing victims into removing their clothes during video conversations for swindlers to then extort money out of them.
But local police on Friday declined to disclose the location of the raid, saying more arrests could be made.
- At least 157 victims aged between 13 and 79 had been ensnared in the fraud cases, with a compensated dating scam victim losing more than HK$10 million.
- The force also seized 84 ATM cards, 31 mobile phones, 34 prepaid SIM cards, six laptops and tablets, and two watches.
Superintendent Tam Wai-shun, of the Cybersecurity and Technology Crime Bureau, said “mainland police had earlier notified the force over their discovery of a naked chat scam operation centre targeting victims in the city.”
“The relevant group operated from November 2022 … up until now,” Tam said.
He explained the fraud varied in method and targets. Online shopping accounted for 40 of the cases, while 32 were linked to investment and 27 to job-hunting scams. As many as 20 cases of compensated dating were discovered, as well as 14 related to naked chatting blackmail, 10 to online games, and six to virtual romance scams (fraud.)
The group was also believed to have made use of more than 100 stooge bank accounts locally to launder about HK$35 million.
“We believe we have succeeded in cracking down on a cross-boundary organised criminal group,” Tam said.
Chief Inspector Cheng Chak-yan said “the fraudsters on the mainland had contacted victims through online dating apps and claimed to offer opportunities for naked chats or compensated dates.”
They later blackmailed the victims (sextortion scammed) and forced them to deposit money into the stooge accounts.
Cheng said the “Hong Kong counterparts were responsible for laundering the proceeds, managing the accounts, converting the funds into cryptocurrencies and remitting them abroad.”
The biggest victim was a 54-year-old man, who lost more than HK$10 million through 49 separate transactions. The fraudsters approached him through a smartphone app that claimed to offer compensated dating opportunities.
The youngest victim was a 13-year-old girl who lost HK$2,300 when trying to sell her online game accounts on social media.
Cheng said “1 percent of the total proceeds had been given as commission to some syndicate members.”
Naked (sexting) chat scams had increased to 1,402 cases last year, up from 171 in 2019, police figures showed.
As of May 2023, 657 cases had been recorded, up by 10 percent over the same period last year, with losses amounting to more than HK$11 million, an increase of 30 percent.
Tam noted that most laws aimed at preventing crimes were also applicable to the internet and that residents should not test the limits.
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