Scam claims hit counseling site

Local | Carine Chow 28 May 2021

Five people said they were scammed of more than HK$110,000 by a platform claiming to provide online counseling services.

A 30-year-old man was arrested on April 19 in Ma On Shan after police received a report from one of the investors. The man has since been released on bail.

Investors told The Standard they paid a man to run Hong Kong Communicare, a platform that is supposed to be an online counseling service. They were told the platform hired psychology students to listen to people with career, relationship or family issues at a cost of HK$120 per 30-minute session.

Although the platform is active on Facebook, it did little actual business, the investors said.

One of the five victims was a registered art therapist who was hoping to use the platform to practice. She said she paid the man HK$4,500 as a handling fee but never received any cases since last summer.

Another investor, a 35-year-old real estate agent, said he noticed the platform had no income after he put in HK$37,000 for 2 percent of the stock in June.

"The man said the platform earned around HK$200,000 per month. After I invested in the platform, I noticed that the number of consultation cases was zero."

He also said the website's hit rate was very low, adding that the platform's supposed founder once ordered one of the investors to buy likes for Hong Kong Communicare's Facebook page.

In April, the agent together with two other investors sought help from a district councillor, after failing to get the company's income statements, balance sheets, as well as the certificate of registration in their final shareholders' meeting.

A meeting over the phone was arranged between the suspect and three of the investors.

"During the meeting, the suspect said he wanted to liquidate the business as there was no cash inflow. He even said all the invested money belonged to him as the money was used to buy his stock," the agent said.

Separately, a 24-year-old nurse found the counseling platform on an entrepreneurial site in early January this year and paid the man HK$5,000 as a down payment.

However, when she later wished to withdraw from the deal, she was told that the majority of her money had been used to hire an accountant for the company.

"I found this really bizarre. He could not tell me the name or address of the accountant he hired, nor could he provide me with the receipt," she said.

She added that the man later refunded several hundred dollars to her though he threatened to sue her in the Small Claims Tribunal.

Responding to The Standard through Facebook on Monday, Hong Kong Communicare said that it was not aware of the accusations.

"Sounds like to me, it might be some strategies from competitors to affect our reputation."

The platform is still running, sharing a new Facebook post yesterday.

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