With the festive season coming up, it can be easy for consumers in Hong Kong to let their guards down and fall prey to digital scams. Hong Kong recorded almost sixfold increase in the number of cybercrimes in the past decade, hitting approximately 13,000 cases with monetary losses of HK$2.96 billion in 2020 alone.
With people adopting more digital services across all aspects of life and spending more time online, it’s crucial for Hongkongers to stay alert and protect themselves. Genevieve Noakes, Head of Compliance, Asia Pacific at Wise shares her expert tips on the top four scams Hongkongers should look out for as we go into the festive season.
Online shopping scams – Hot deal? Hold on
With eye-popping discounts heating up screens, consumers are ready to snag deals, but so are fraudsters waiting in the wings to swindle. Online shopping scams in Hong Kong witnessed a 413% upsurge over the past five years, and it’ll only accelerate as we embrace shopping online.
Scammers take advantage of the rising popularity of e-commerce, social commerce, as well as people’s psyche of grabbing an unbelievably good deal to lure victims. Fraudsters present themselves as legitimate online sellers, creating either a fake website or a fake discount ad. In some cases, the seller will ask for more money for delivery or taxes after the first payment is made. In the end, the victim never receives the item.
Wise Tips: Do an extra check if the deal seems too-good-to-be-true, especially if it’s a popular item that’s priced way below market average. If interested, one should always go to an e-tailer’s website directly, rather than by clicking an email or social media link. When making payments online, always check the URLs. Legitimate websites should always begin with ‘https’ and a closed padlock icon in the address window. It’s also wise to check out as a ‘guest’ so your personal and payment information won’t be stored on retailers’ websites, which can be vulnerable to data breaches.
International money transfer scams – Old trick still hurts
When it comes to money transfer scams, scammers can employ old tricks with a modern twist. For instance, fraudsters fool people into thinking their own friends and relatives are asking for money by contacting you from a familiar number or email, claiming they need money for hospital bills. Many also pretend to be bank staff, requesting a new payment due to a failure in a previous transaction.
Wise Tips: To keep scammers at bay, never give your details to an unsolicited caller or reply to suspicious emails you weren’t expecting. Don’t pay to new people without doing research on them. Most importantly, don’t feel pressured to make a payment when the situation sounds dire on the other end of the call. Contact the relative or organisation separately to confirm the story — be cautious of requests to ‘not tell anyone’.
‘Most people hardly ever think they’d be a victim of a scam until it happens to them. Fraudsters are crafty, and as the festive season approaches, it’s more important than ever for Hongkongers to remain vigilant.’ Noakes said.
Romance scams – Soulmate or Scammer?
In Hong Kong, romance scams saw an upsurge of 694% during 2016-2020, and victims of romance scams were conned out of more than HK$37 million in the first half of 2021.
One can be easily charmed by romantic prose and fooled by fake sob stories once a romance is established. Scammers target your heart by making up a story about needing money for an emergency, or request ‘loans’ from the dating prospect, citing they have trouble cashing a cheque at a critical moment.
Wise Tips: Never share their bank account details or other important personal information with a new love met online, especially if they haven’t met in person. Limit the personal information you share online and on dating apps, or make your profile private so scammers have less info on hand to exploit. Most importantly, always be sceptical about any heart-wrenching stories your new love shares with you. Aside from money, the emotional toll of having been wooed by an illusion can be equally heartbreaking. Be supportive and understanding if this happens to your friends or family, as it could happen to anyone.
Donation scams – Compassion being taken advantage of
t is the gift-giving season. Fake charities can take advantage of people’s generosity and compassion during the holiday period. They can approach you on the street or set up fake websites which look like real charities. Some scammers might also call or email you requesting a donation. Scammers may also play on your emotions by claiming to help children who are ill.
Wise Tips: Be careful if a person collecting donations on behalf of a charity does not have any identification. Even if they do have identification, it could be forged, so make sure you check it carefully. Never trust a charity that you haven’t heard of before, and do your research before putting down any money. Remember, a fake website may look almost identical to a legitimate charity site, changing only the details of where to send donations.
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