Chinese on line dating scams
Online romance scammers last year stole more than HK million from love-struck victims who shared too much personal information on social networking websites, according to Hong Kong police.
In nearly 90 per cent of the 61 cases that happened from 2013 to March this year, the victims were female.
In one case last year, a divorced woman who was about to retire from her professional job lost nearly HK million to a fraudster who cultivated an online romance.
Confirming nine cases of online romance scams in the first three months of this year, Chief Inspector Tsang Chun-kit, of the commercial crime bureau, called the trend "alarming".
"When investigating, we target internet service providers," Lin said.
While these might sound implausible, the victims were often blinded by the relationship they had built in their virtual world.
Sean Lin, chief inspector of the cybersecurity and technology crime bureau, said tracing the criminals behind online dating scams was very difficult and so far police had made arrests only in Hong Kong in six cases using money laundering laws.
As soon as the scammers felt they had gained the victims' full trust, they would invent excuses to ask them to send money to overseas bank accounts.
"This means fraudsters are getting more sophisticated in establishing relationships and trust," he said.Tsang said the typical fake profile pictures used by the scammers were quite "plain-looking" so they would not alarm or make the victims suspicious.And more than half of them were educated, white-collar workers and professionals.While the age of the victims varied from 23 to 60, police said most were between 30 and 50.
Often posing as white male engineers working in Southeast Asia, the scammers usually conducted extensive research on their potential targets, who revealed too much personal information, such as hobbies and interests, on popular social networking sites.Once they became knowledgeable about the victims, the scammers would try to befriend them and initiate a series of intimate conversations through emails in a grooming process that might last over a month.