War-work scam targets hearts and wallets

Top News | Riley Chan 29 Dec 2017

Fraudsters claiming to work for Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres) in war zones are cheating money from compassionate people, including through online dating sites.

MSF has received 21 inquiries from Hong Kong, the mainland and Taiwan since June about people claiming to be field workers making contact via dating platforms or social media to ask for money.

Six of those were reported from Hong Kong, with targets contacted through WeChat, LinkedIn, match.com and Lovestruck.

The scammers claimed they were working with MSF in conflict zones and offered various reasons to need help in receiving luggage or a parcel on their behalf. They also sought money to pay luggage fees and customs charges or to help with a return trip.

In some cases the scammers showed a flight itinerary with forged MSF letters and invoices made out to intended victims.

Four cases were passed by MSF to Hong Kong police, but no one in the SAR was known to have sent money to the scammers. An investigation is now being run from Western District police station.

Inquiries also went to MSF offices in Beijing and Taipei. People were contacted by individuals claiming to be MSF workers raising funds for a foundation or a hospital. In one case a scammer showed plans for a hospital.

Two victims in the mainland reported losses of 15,000 yuan (HK$17,937) and US$18,000 (HK$140,040).

"They are abusing people's kindness," an organization spokesman said, warning everyone that MSF never takes donations through individual field workers or uses private bank accounts.

Accommodation and transportation for personnel are met by MSF along with supplies for projects, he added, and "field workers would never need to ask anyone outside the organization for help."

The organization urges people to be alert for false claims and not to transfer money before checking with MSF by phone (2925-4229) or e-mail (office@hongkong.msf.org).

riley.chan@singtaonewscorp.com

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