The Hong Kong Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) received complaints about con men posing as ICAC officers in deception cases. Overseas Chinese and local Hong Kong citizens alike fell prey to these scams. Think twice when someone claimed that:
Also watch out for these tricks used by the fraudsters:
Whatever the pretexts, the money would be withdrawn soon after remittance and the imposters disappeared into thin air.
“Our acquaintance is definitely not a coincidence.”
“Your presence has brought me joy and hope.”
“Are you working very hard today? Take care of yourself or I will be sad if you get sick!”
I am Walter, Chief Investigator of the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) in Hong Kong. In recent years, the ICAC received telephone enquiries from abroad or the mainland China on whether we had arrested the callers’ friends or relatives. Hence, quite a number of syndicated deception cases involving the impersonation of ICAC officers were revealed.
In one of those cases under my investigation, I still have reminiscences on the tearful expression of the victim when she recalled memoirs of the ‘sweet moments’……
“I am Amy, Chinese, residing in Australia, 40+. After breaking up with my boyfriend more than 10 years ago, I have all along been on my own. Seeing my female friends getting married and having children, of course I was anxious. I wanted to find a partner. Once learning it was very easy to strike up a friendship online, I started browsing dating websites.
Getting to know Endy as I once thought was a gift from God. Initially we were only chatting. He was a native of Shanxi, Investment Manager of a Chinese bank in Hong Kong. Since he was busy at work, he had no time to make friends of the opposite gender. Later when we realized that we both loved travelling, we just could not stop sharing with each other on our travelling experiences. Very often, he sent me photographs of his trips and everyday life, and some even of his business and identity cards of his bank. He too was kidding to ask me whether he looked handsome in the pictures or not. Like being under a spell, I did not even want to go out during holidays. Whenever I had time I would log in to the website for a chat with Endy. We even exchanged our telephone numbers afterwards, so that we could send messages to each other during day time.
On the evening of my birthday eve, Endy sent a message to me saying my presence had brought him unspeakable joy and hope. After returning a ‘smiling face’ emoji to him, he immediately indicated his wish to have me as his girlfriend. That indeed was my best birthday present!
He said he wanted to have a family and hoped that our further conversations would focus on our marriage. Then we began to call each other ‘dear’, ‘darling’ and so on. Furthermore, I treasured the photographs he sent to me and saved them in my cell phone. He was very much concerned of my wellbeing and asked how things were with me every day. But how would I imagine those heartwarming words were in fact baits for his prey?
After knowing Endy for 2 months, he said his department would be responsible for a mainland investment project called ‘Combat Underground Mark Six Activities’. Due to the low entry barriers, little risks and handsome profits, he asked me to join the project ‘to win some dowry’! For my trust in Endy, I promised to invest and deposited ¥20,000 into a mainland bank account as instructed.
In the next few weeks, we were chatting online as usual. A week later, Endy said the ‘Combat Underground Mark Six Activities’ project had brought about a return of ¥3,000,000. However, according to the financial provisions in the mainland China, I had to first pay a 2% tax before getting the money. Then based on the image of the tax return Endy sent to me, I remitted ¥6,000 into another mainland bank account for the tax payment.
In the next few days, I was still dreaming about how to make use of the money to create a memorable wedding. Then one day an unexpected phone call from a Mr. CHAN of a Hong Kong financial regulator telling me that as I was not a Hong Kong or Macao resident, therefore, as stipulated under the law, I could not take the money which was temporarily held by the financial regulator, and that I was further required to make a guarantee deposit of ¥100,000 for having been suspected of tax evasion and money laundry. But in any sense, how would I have so much money? Being desperate, I called Endy at once. He told me to transfer ¥20,000 first and then he would pay the remaining ¥80,000 for me.
I considered Mr. CHAN’s words slightly untrustworthy. Neither was I familiar with the financial matters in Hong Kong, so I could only ask John, another friend from Hong Kong I came to know in the online dating site for advice. John was a senior executive of a bank in Hong Kong and he had many friends working in the banking industry. It was confirmed after inquiry that as indicated from the regulator’s records, an investment return of ¥3,000,000 was really being held up, and that it was also the government regulation to levy tax and guarantee deposit. As it was seen to be true, then what options were left for me? I could only transfer ¥20,000 into the mainland bank account.
Since then there was no way I could make contact with Endy. My messages were not replied. He was not seen logging in to the dating website either. So what had happened to him? Was there an accident? Or he was simply too busy at work?
Then I received Mr. CHAN’s phone call again. He said since Endy was arrested by the ICAC for having made a deposit of ¥80,000 for me, which was against the company practice. I was told to prepare ¥80,000 immediately, and that if only I could take out the same amount, then it was possible to prove Endy’s innocence and he would be discharged by the ICAC very soon. After hanging up, I called Endy right away; but again, it was only connected to his voice mail box.
I was so afraid that Endy would go to jail, worrying that Endy would ruin his career because of me. So I made the decision to fly to Hong Kong to understand the matter. Before leaving, Mr. CHAN called me again to urge me for the payment of ¥80,000; nevertheless I had no mood to entertain him.
I kept trying to get in touch with Endy. I even wanted to go to his office to take a look. Till noon time of the following day, the line was eventually connected to Endy’s mobile phone.
“Hello, I would like to speak to Endy!”
“I am an officer of the ICAC. Endy is now being interviewed. So his cell phone is confiscated in the meantime!”
“How is Endy? He is innocent!”
“It’s not convenient to talk about it at the moment. Can you make a trip to the ICAC headquarters?” Having said that, it was hung up.
I did not know the address of the ICAC headquarters. Then I immediately looked it up online and found its telephone hotline. I made a call in an attempt to confirm the case. Yet unexpectedly……
It was revealed that Endy, Mr. CHAN and even John were all…swindlers!
I could not believe I was deceived. I wished the ICAC Officer had got it all wrong. Then I called Endy and Mr. CHAN one more time but the lines could not be connected….”
This is a typical defrauding tricks. Syndicated swindlers pick their targets from the photographs of the online dating sites. After seizing their features as being single and desperate to look for love and care, they develop a relationship with them and promote to them different ‘investment projects’ such as those relating to Mark Six speculations, real estate developments etc. Since the victims have trust in the cheating crooks, they are always willing to take out the money.
When the ‘investment projects’ are nearing completion and the swindlers knew their plans would soon be cracked, then they would lie to the victims that they had been detained by law enforcement officers with an intent to further defraud the victims of paying the bail money.
Please remember the ICAC in Hong Kong will not contact friends and relatives of detainees on their behalves. Furthermore, the Commission will not require them to pay bail money by remittance, account transfer or some other means. Arrangements should be made by detainees through lawyers or in person.
As stipulated in the Hong Kong ICAC Ordinance, the impersonation of an ICAC Officer or false representation of the possession of powers of an ICAC Officers is against the law and liable to a fine of $20,000 and imprisonment for one year upon conviction.
If you encounter someone calling himself /herself an ICAC Officer of Hong Kong and have doubts on his/her identity, please call the Hong Kong ICAC report hotline 852 25 266 366 for enquiry.
“Once I did not cherish a precious relationship, then I regretted with remorse when it was gone.”
“This time I don’t want to be sorry again! Your presence is another opportunity God has bestowed on me!”
“If my love for you has a time limit, I wish it would be 10,000 years!”
I am Walter, Chief Investigator of the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) in Hong Kong. In recent years, the ICAC received quite a number of syndicated deception cases involving the impersonation of ICAC Officers. Most of the victims called the Commission to enquire whether we had arrested their friends or relatives and the scams henceforth came to light.
In one of the cases under my investigation, I still recall the tearful expression of the victim when she fixed her eyes on the intimate text messages……
“My name is Yoyo, I’m from Tainan, 50+. Four years ago after divorcing my husband I have all along been staying on my own and relying on government subventions and my ex’s severance pay to support my living. My son has graduated from university and moved to the city for work, and it has greatly eased my burden. But at the same time my life has become less and less occupied. Each day, I faced the empty house by myself and the helplessness made me difficult to breath. I would very much like to have someone to talk to.
As my son observed I was always in a blue mood, he gave me the latest model of a smartphone as a gift. He hoped I would get online to spend my spare time and keep abreast with the time. He also installed the instant messaging application to help me keep in touch with people at any moment. In the following two weeks, after experimenting the unaccustomed operations and making countless mistakes, I eventually succeeded in writing instant messages, inserting emojis and even using facemood expressions. I was happy with my improvements!
Getting to know Arthur was a coincidence. On that day, I was trying out the ‘Shake Out’ in-app function. It was unexpected that I received his friend request. Initially, I was being cautious and our conversations did not go non-stop. He said he was an officer of a department of the Hong Kong Government, and that because of his straightforward personality, it was difficult for him to have crush on females and so he still remained single at the age of 55.
I learned during conversations that Arthur came from a single parent family and had been living with his mother since childhood. As I was also a single mother, I got on well talking to him and had pity on his upbringing. I later realized that we both enjoyed watching movies and were especially familiar with the dialogues of the classic Hong Kong films. From time to time, he sent me photographs of his everyday life and those of his mother, including one with her identity card. He was kidding to ask me whether he looked like a movie star or not! Since I was unemployed, every day I wished time could go fast so that I could talk to him after he had finished off work. I fancied perhaps Arthur was thinking of me too. Before going for work, during lunch time and in the middle of the meetings, Arthur would send me lovely heartrending emojis which delighted me most.
Though we had never met, we soon developed a relationship. He said he was getting old and saw me someone to get married with. He did not mind me being a divorced woman and would be pleased to take my son as his own. Since he had invested in Taiwan properties, he could settle down here after we became man and wife. Oh…who wouldn’t look forward to living such a happy life?
More than a month later, Arthur asked me one day whether I was willing to help him if he was in trouble. I told him I would be most happy to offer help if I could! It was known that he had made profits in a real estate project but before realizing the profits, he had to pay US$30,000 for tax. However, since he had put all his money in his investment, he was unable to cope with the transaction instantly. Then he hoped I could help him. Since Arthur was a civil servant, he was unable to collect the loan from me direct. As a result, I followed his instructions to remit the money to the account of Brother Bo, a friend of his working for a Hong Kong financial regulator.
Roughly a week later, Arthur used the same reason to ask me for US$40,000 to pay tax again. In fact, I had used up my savings on the previous occasion and there was no more money to help him with. However, I could not bear Arthur’s verbal disappointment and was made to give him my word. After pooling the amount from friends, I paid it into Brother Bo’s bank account again. In any sense, I trusted Arthur well and strongly believed his enthusiasm in investment was all for our future.
A few days later, I received the phone call from a bank staff mentioning that my remittance had been frozen by the receiving bank. I was suspected of having been involved in money laundry activities! In panic and anxiety, I sent messages to Arthur but he never replied. Oh…what had happened to him?
In the next three days I was feeling unrest and agitated. Then I received Brother Bo’s phone call telling me Arthur was suspected of having taken part in money laundry activities and was kept in the Detention Centre of the Hong Kong ICAC after arrest. Brother Bo said Arthur was his good friend and he would try his best to help him. He further asked, “If Arthur is in jail, then how can he marry you?” Having heard that, I felt so bad that I wanted to cry; nevertheless, there was nothing I could do.
On the next day, Brother Bo called again and said he had some ‘good news’!
“Arthur is still being investigated by the Hong Kong ICAC and should not be discharged for the time being! Fortunately, I am acquainted with a unit head attached to the Detention Centre. Only if some ‘advantage’ is given to him, he should be able to say some nice words for Arthur, help shorten the length of sentence and even get him out right away!”
“Really? Then how much money is needed?”
“The unit head was asking for HK$15,000!”
“Mm….Brother Bo…..…can I think about it?”
“Don’t hesitate. The longer the money is paid, the longer it will take for Arthur to have freedom again!”
“Alright…give me a few days….let me have a word with my family!”
I immediately discussed the matter with my son and hoped he could lend me money to offer the ‘advantage’. After hearing the whole story, my son was assertive to say that I had been deceived. He told me not to give any more money to Brother Bo and should report the case to the Police at once! I was in tears to ask if it was true, then what would happen to Arthur. Being pressed by my persistent request, my son suggested not to transfer the money but asked his friend in Hong Kong to give the money to Brother Bo by hand. I called Brother Bo at once who said there was no problem with the arrangement and asked his Hong Kong friend to make an appointment with him direct. However, when Arthur’s friend in Hong Kong phoned Brother Bo, he told him he had been away from Hong Kong for an official overseas trip for a few days. Brother Bo has tried every means to convince Arthur’s friend to transfer the money; but of course, the request was turned down.
After all these, the telephone line of Brother Bo was disconnected, my messages not replied by Arthur and his telephone number no more in use.
I was still slightly worrying and a bit upset. Then I called the ICAC in Hong Kong to ask whether they were actually investigating Arthur and whether Arthur was really detained. Yet, the answer was as my son had expected……
Arthur and Brother Bo were associates to rip off my money!
Now what then? Another married life I fantasized had vanished, and what’s left was the money I owed my friends and family…”
In this smartphone era, getting in touch with friends from abroad through instant messaging is no more a dream. Yet swindlers seize the convenience brought about by the technology to make use of social networking applications to hunt for overseas targets from their photographs. Subsequently, typical defrauding tricks will be employed. Through the sharing of feelings, the victims take off their guards. After winning their sympathy and compassion, the relationship will be easily developed! Furthermore, they make excuses like investing in property development projects and making tax payments, etc. to deceive money. Since the victims believe the swindlers, they are always willing to take out the money or even everything they possess.
When the scam reaches the final stage, i.e. when swindlers know the victims have begun to suspect, they would then lie to them that they have been arrested by the law enforcement officers, with intent to further defraud the victims of paying bail money or even offering bribes to the law enforcers.
Please remember the ICAC in Hong Kong will not contact friends and relatives of detainees on their behalves. Furthermore, the Commission will not require them to pay bail money by remittance, account transfer or some other means. Detainees may only make the arrangements through lawyers or in person. At the same time, pursuant to the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance of Hong Kong, any person offering an advantage to a public officer for his/her performing or abstaining from performing his/her duty is an offence under the law.
If you encounter someone calling himself/herself an ICAC Officer of Hong Kong and have doubts on his/her identity, please call the Hong Kong ICAC report hotline 852 25 266 366 for enquiry.
If you suspect yourself of being deceived, you should report the matter immediately to your local government organizations and stop making any payment at once.
As stipulated in the Hong Kong ICAC Ordinance, the impersonation of an ICAC Officer or false representation of the possession of powers of an ICAC Officers is against the law and liable to the fine of $20,000 and imprisonment for one year upon conviction.