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Hong Kong online shopping scams soar this year

Hong Kong online shopping scams have soared 35 per cent this year.

Police say they are now receiving an average of six new complaints every day, with 383 lodged in January and February of this year, compared with 286 during the same two months last year.  

This year’s complaints amounted to about HK$3.3 million in losses, however the average amount per complaint has reduced by about two-thirds compared with last year.

The increase in Hong Kong online shopping scams is due to the growing popularity of e-commerce, say police. Scams reported cover products as diverse as mooncakes, handbags, concert tickets and sneakers and there is usually a notable increase in cases immediately before festive seasons such as Lunar New Year, Christmas or the Mid-Autumn Festival.

Most of the cases reported to police involve people paying for goods, but the  purchases never arrive and the vendors vanish, untraceable. In rarer cases, the scammers pose as customers and settle with cheques that bounce or fake cashier’s cheques.

Last year, Hong Kong police processed 2102 complaints of online shopping scams, up from 1562 the previous year. Losses totalled $41.9 million, up from $17.8 million in 2017.

Last weekend, police arrested three locals believed to have stolen $370,000 in an online shopping scam, using fake cheques to buy jewellery and watches.

Police have warned consumers to shop online through recognised trading platforms who use identity authentication to reduce the risk of fraud.

“While selling goods via online platforms, do not believe too readily that the other party has made the payment to you just by referring to the deposit slip or the email the other party provides,” said a police spokesman.

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