Hong Kong police arrest 43 people over 32 cases of cyber fraud totalling more than HK$28 million, most suspects recruited to set up bank accounts | #whatsapp | #lovescams | #phonescams

Hong Kong police have arrested 43 people over 32 cases of cyber fraud in which victims lost more than HK$28 million (US$3.6 million) in total.

The force on Tuesday revealed more than two-thirds of the suspects, detained in the past two weeks, were holders of bank accounts used by fraud syndicates to collect scammed money and launder the illegal proceeds.

Inspector Law Kwan-kit of the Tseung Kwan O technology crime unit said the rackets recruited people via social media to set up the accounts by promising them hundreds to thousands of Hong Kong dollars.

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“But our investigation indicated most of them did not receive any money after handing over their account details and personal information to fraud syndicates,” Law said.

The force said the 32 reports of cyber fraud mostly involved online romance scams and sham investment deals, with total losses of HK$28.75 million. Police said 65 victims, aged from 21 to 65, were swindled in the 32 cases, reported to the force between May 2021 and March 2023.

Officers mounted a two-week operation, code-named Swiftpower, between July 16 and 30 and arrested 29 men and 14 women.

The suspects, aged 19 to 64, were detained on suspicion of money laundering and obtaining property by deception. They were later released on bail.

Officers also seized mobile phones, bank cards and related documents as part of the operation.

Law on Tuesday said the investigation was still under way and further arrests were not ruled out.

He also appealed to the public, especially young people during the summer holidays, not to lend or sell their bank accounts to others for handling funds from unknown sources.

He warned that people who did could end up in court facing money-laundering charges.

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Money laundering is punishable by up to 14 years in jail and a HK$5 million fine. Obtaining property by deception carries a maximum penalty of 10 years behind bars.

Officers from the Anti-Deception Coordination Centre, responsible for tracking scammed cash, have prevented more than HK$11 billion from reaching the hands of criminals since it was set up about six years ago.

Police have also introduced the Scameter search engine, accessible via the CyberDefender website, to combat online and phone fraud.

The app provides information to help the public identify suspicious web addresses, phone numbers, emails, platform usernames or IP addresses.

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