Hong Kong police have confirmed that a widely distributed text message from “HK Police” sent on Friday containing a warning about ongoing phone scams did come from them after some mobile users reported it as suspicious.

The message read: “Police announcement: Beware of phone scams! If you receive calls from individuals claiming to be officers in law enforcement or other institutions asking for money or personal and bank information, do not believe it. If you suspect that you have been scammed, please contact the police immediately.”

Some users who received the message were suspicious of its origin and reported it to the Apple Daily. The newspaper also cited one user who enquired the police.

Its distribution was a joint effort between the police and four Hong Kong mobile service providers: SmarTone, 3HK, China Mobile (Hong Kong) and CSL.

The anti-scam message from the police.
The phone scam warning message from the police. Photo: HKFP.

Between January and July 2015, the police received 2,371 reports of phone scams. In 378 cases, fraudsters successfully cheated victims out of money. Around HK$126 million have been defrauded.

Of the reported cases, 54.5 percent of fraudsters impersonated couriers, 21 percent pretended to be Mainland China law enforcement agents, 14.5 percent falsely claimed to be China Liaison Office officials, and 10 percent masqueraded as staff at the China Post, the China Banking Regulatory Commission or other telecommunication companies.

In July, the China Liaison Office sought assistance from the Hong Kong police after a recent increase in phone scams, in which potential victims were asked to transfer money to an unknown bank account. The phone calls came from individuals claiming to be officials working for the Liaison Office. More than 10,000 people made inquiries with the Liaison Office in July after receiving suspicious phone calls.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.