Cryptocurrency crime in Hong Kong hits record levels, with one victim losing HK$124 million to fraudsters
02 Aug 2021

Cryptocurrency crimes and the scale of losses in Hong Kong soared to record levels in the first six months of this year, with one victim conned out of HK$124 million (US$15.9 million).

Police logged 496 such cases involving victims losing a total of HK$214.4 million in the first half of 2021. Across the whole of last year, total losses from 208 cases stood at HK$114.4 million.

Investing in cryptocurrency, a form of digital money that can be exchanged online for goods or services, has grown in popularity in recent years. Mainstream versions include tether, ethereum and bitcoin.

In the biggest Hong Kong case so far, police said a 30-year-old man was scammed out of HK$124 million in June after a group presenting as cryptocurrency consultants disappeared with his money following the currency’s devaluation.

There were also three local cases this year in which people were robbed or conned out of millions of Hong Kong dollars in face-to-face cryptocurrency transactions.

Chief Inspector Lester Ip Cheuk-yu, of police’s cyber security and technology crime bureau, said not only was investing in digital currency especially popular this year, but the Covid-19 pandemic was a factor behind rising crime levels in this area.

“People have also been staying at home more, which means they spend longer on the internet, so scammers have more avenues to approach them online,” he said. “This is a trend not just in Hong Kong but around the world.”

According to police, cryptocurrency crimes tend to fall into one of three categories: using cryptocurrency for money laundering; online shopping fraud where buyers or sellers may be robbed during face-to-face transactions; or investment scams where sellers disappear after taking a victim’s money.

Another common tactic involves online dating scams, where con artists gain victims’ trust to invest on their behalf.

By Ngai Yeung, South China Morning Post, 2 August 2021

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