Elderly Hong Kong woman tricked out of HK$16 million after giving out bank account details

Elderly Hong Kong woman tricked out of HK$16 million after giving out bank account details

An elderly woman was tricked out of HK$16 million (US$2.05 million) after giving out her bank account details in Hong Kong, losing the most among victims discovered in the latest police crackdown on scams that has led to the arrest of 21 suspects.

Police officers from Kowloon City district arrested 14 men and seven women, aged 22 to 67, during the crackdown on tech-based crimes that spanned Wednesday to Friday. Among them were cleaners, delivery men, technicians and sales clerks.

They were involved in 18 cases of alleged fraud and money laundering, involving HK$49.8 million in losses.

"According to our investigations, the suspects were mostly stooge account holders who were used by syndicates to process their earnings," said Inspector Siu Yan-ting from the district's criminal investigation department.

The victims were cheated out of their money through online investment and job hunting scams and "guess who I am" phone scams, where fraudsters asked the victims to guess their identity and gained their trust by pretending to be their family members.

The 76-year-old retiree lost HK$16 million to a scammer claiming to be a mainland Chinese official, warning her that she was suspected of money laundering over the border and then asking for her bank account details.

"She found that HK$16 million had been transferred out of her account after she gave the fraudster her online banking login and password," Siu said.

Police handled 18,743 cases of money laundering between January and June this year, a 52 per cent jump from the 12,326 logged over the same period in 2022.

Losses from the cases reached HK$2.7 billion, up 28 per cent from HK$2.1 billion recorded in the same period in 2022.

With a rising trend in the number of arrests related to stooge account holders, police reminded the public to not give out their bank account details to others for illegal purposes.

The force said stooge account holders could face money-laundering charges even if they were unaware about the origin or use of funds.

The maximum penalty for those convicted of money laundering is 14 years in jail and a fine of HK$5 million.

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