Hong Kong: An elderly woman was cheated out of $32 million by phone scammers.

A 90-year-old woman living in Hong Kong’s wealthiest area, The Peak, fell victim to the city’s highest-recorded phone scam.

Last summer, the poor lady had been called by criminals who managed to make her believe they were Chinese public security officials and told her she was the subject of a serious money-laundering investigation, according to The Guardian.

The South China Morning Post reported she was then told to transfer money from her account into ones being held by the team of investigators for safekeeping and scrutiny.

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Some days later, a man who introduced himself as a police authority visited her at her house and gave her a dedicated phone and SIM card to communicate with the fraudsters. Later on, she was tricked into making 11 separate payments. In a 5-month period, she transferred over HK$250 million ($32 million), the largest sum recorded as part of a telephone scam.

Authorities told the publication:

“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.”

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Eventually, the woman’s domestic helper alerted her to the possibility that there might be something fishy about the situation.

Authorities arrested a 19-year-old man on March 25, who has since been freed on bail.

Phone scams rose from 169 to 200, an 18% from the start of this year till now compared to the same period in 2020. Police say, HK$350 million ($45 million) has already been stolen by scammers this year.

Police dealt with around 1200 phone scam cases in 2020, and believe fraudsters have taken nearly HK$574 million ($74 million) that year.

With phone scamming being a trans-jurisdictional crime, criminals often phone from a location outside of the country.

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In October of 2020, a 65-year-old from Yuen Long was scammed out of HK$69 million ($9 million) after similar accusations of money laundering. Three men have since been arrested in connection with this case.

 

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