‘Online lover’ swindles Hong Kong investment manager out of HK$12.8 million inheritance in 1 month through bogus cryptocurrency trading

  • Swindler, claiming to be a female cryptocurrency investment expert, developed a relationship with the man through the internet, police say
  • Source says victim lost total of HK$12.8 million recently inherited from late father; he transferred money into 16 designated bank accounts

A 63-year-old investment manager in Hong Kong lost more than HK$12 million in inheritance from his late father in a month after falling victim to an online romance scam, it was revealed on Thursday.

The swindler, claiming to be a female cryptocurrency investment expert, developed a relationship with the man through the internet and then induced him into setting up an account on a bogus trading website to invest in digital money, according to police.

A source familiar with the case said the victim lost a total of HK$12.8 million from inheritance left to him by his late father and that he had received the sum recently.

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The man, who lives in Hong Kong Island’s Eastern district, fell victim to the scam after the fraudster befriended him on Facebook on December 14. The pair then contacted each other through WhatsApp.

“After establishing a relationship with the victim, the ‘online lover’ lured him into investing in cryptocurrency through a trading website controlled by swindlers,” the source said.

Between December 30 and January 30 this year, the investment manager transferred HK$12.8 million into 16 designated bank accounts in Hong Kong as instructed.

He realised he had been conned when his attempts to get his money back failed. He then called police on Sunday.

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Detectives from the Eastern criminal investigation unit are handling his case.

Another source said such investment websites showed rising cryptocurrency or stock prices but all the information was set up and controlled by fraudsters.

He warned that positive returns in the accounts were usually designed to coax victims into investing more money.

Between January and October last year, police handled 1,309 reports of online romance scams, a 4 per cent drop from 1,369 cases logged in the same period of 2021.

Swindlers are constantly changing their tactics, police warn. Photo: Shutterstock

© Provided by South China Morning Post
Swindlers are constantly changing their tactics, police warn. Photo: Shutterstock

But the amount victims lost rose to HK$578 million in the first 10 months of last year, from HK$483 million in the same period in 2021.

Nearly half of the 1,309 cases logged last year involved investment fraud.

Online scammers in such cases generally pose as merchants or professionals in fields such as engineering, banking or the military, charming their victims before asking for money.

According to the force, the swindlers are constantly changing tactics. Police are urging the public to be wary of who they interact with online.

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On January 13, a 51-year-old woman called police after a con artist posing as a patient with terminal cancer duped her out of HK$9.6 million in an online romance scam.

The swindler, claiming to be a Korean engineer working in Poland, told the victim he had lung cancer and would die if he did not receive an organ transplant

Police said scammers also induced their targets to join fake investment schemes.

“Initially victims make small profits, but after putting in more money they end up suffering huge losses. The fraud is also known as the ‘pig-butchering scam’,” the force said on its website.

If in doubt, people should contact the police force’s 24-hour anti-scam helpline on 18222.

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This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (www.scmp.com), the leading news media reporting on China and Asia.

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