Job scams bloom with summer

Local | Stella Wong 23 May 2019

With the summer holidays approaching and a new crop of job seekers leaving school, police warn people to stay alert.

In doing so, officers point to 193 fraud cases involving jobs and people looking for work opportunities over the past 16 months, with HK$23.2 million involved.

Fifty of the cases were recorded in the first four months of this year and saw 54 victims between 16 and 60 cheated out of HK$4.08 million.

This followed 2018's 143 cases, when 220 victims aged 11 to 60 were scammed out of HK$19.2 million.

The largest sum involved a 26-year-old woman being cheated of HK$908,000 in March.

After applying for a job she saw on social media, she was told it was about making high-return investments on cosmetic products.

She was told the products were expensive and she had to pay HK$908,000 as a deposit.

The scammer disappeared after receiving the payment.

Among all cases, the youngest victim was an 11-year-old girl who went for a job editing images. She paid HK$1,200 as a deposit and member's fee but did not receive pay after finishing the tasks.

Senior inspector Hui Chung-hang of the police's Commercial Crime Bureau said fraudsters usually post job ads on social media and entice people by offering "quick cash."

One common tactic used by fraudsters is to tell people to apply for loans at financial institutions. They claim victims will receive remuneration after passing the money to them and that loans will be repaid.

Another tactic sees fraudsters asking for personal details, including proof of address and bank account numbers.

They will then deposit a sum of money in a target's account and ask them to withdraw the money and hand it over. But the money are actually loans for which the scammers applied using victims' information.

In other cases, people are asked to pay fees before starting a job, such as an introduction fee and a deposit.

They may also ask victims to pay for hotels and flights before starting work as an overseas buyer. "Once the victims give money to the fraudsters they will simply disappear," Hui said.

Around 85 percent of victims are below 30, Hui said, and some 40 percent either students or people without jobs.

And in about 90 percent of cases fraudsters approach targets through online forums or social media.

"This situation reflects that victims are mostly those lacking social experience or in applying for jobs," he said.

Police have also noted more cases related to buying mobile phones this year, with seven in the four months.

Scammers will ask victims to purchase phones from telecom firms and say they will pay hundreds of dollars more to buy the phones. But the fraudsters disappear after obtaining the phones.

Yeung Chi-kit, a senior officer in the Labour Department, said most jobs do not require people to pay to be hired.

And Yeung told job seekers to avoid social media and online forums and to use proper channels, such as the department's website or direct links to companies.

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