Common Scams and How to Avoid Them

Common scams and how to avoid them:

  • Investment Scams: Hong Kong is experiencing an explosion in investment scams, with the number of cases more than tripling in the first seven months of 2021, and the amount of money stolen increasing nearly 20-fold, according to police statistics.  The phony investment products could take the form of cryptocurrencies, overseas properties, and foreign currency exchanges, among other things, adding that scammers approached their victims on a variety of platforms, including Facebook, Instagram and even the professional networking site LinkedIn.  Scammers then pitch for victims to put their money into fake investment products, often accomplished by sending links to fake websites or mobile apps with names similar to legitimate financial institutions.  The apps would often show fake investment growth, leading victims to believe they had made gains and convincing them to put even more money into the scammers’ pockets.
  • Phone Scams: Telephone scams are increasing in Hong Kong.  In the first half of 2020 alone, scammers tricked more than 500 people in Hong Kong into parting with 185 million Hong Kong dollars.  Some scammers pretend to be government officials and ask victims to provide their personal data and bank account details.
  • Romance Scams: Scammers create a fictional person on social media platforms and online dating websites.  After establishing trust, they make up false stories about needing money.
  • Financial Intermediaries Scams: Victims receive emails requesting bank account details.

Common signs of scams:

  • Contacted out of the blue by a stranger offering unsolicited advice on investments
  • Required to pay additional fees or taxes to access or withdraw money without prior knowledge
  • Offered ‘guaranteed returns’ or promised/advertised returns higher than legitimate financial institutions
  • Encouraged to invest more by being promised higher returns, and then pressured to do so or risk of losing all the money

If you think you have been targeted by a scam, you should:

  1. Never transfer any money to a suspicious person or organization.
  2. Contact all banks involved and request that they freeze and/or recall all payments and transactions.  Retain all documents, chat messages, and receipts.
  3. Contact the 24/7 Hong Kong Police Force Anti-Deception Coordination Centre hotline for further guidance (+852 18222).
  4. File a report with the Hong Kong Police Force at the nearest police station, or via their online portal.
  5. From anywhere in the world, file a report via the FBI’s online portal link.  When filing the online report via the FBI’s IC3 portal, you should individually report each financial transaction with all respective supporting information in the “Financial Transaction(s)” section.  It is important to include the information for each transaction separately, for example if you sent five payments then your report should have five entries in the “Financial Transaction(s)” section.
  6. From the United States or Canada, file a police report with your local police department.

The U.S. Consulate Hong Kong & Macau has no authority or jurisdiction in Hong Kong or Macau to investigate financial crimes in these respective legal systems.  Should you decide to pursue a civil case in Hong Kong or Macau, a list of legal services providers is available via Legal Assistance.  Officers of the Department of State and U.S. Embassies and Consulates abroad are prohibited by law from acting as agents or attorneys on behalf of U.S. citizens in legal disputes abroad.