The number of phone scams are expected to rise as criminals return from Lunar New Year holidays with improved methods, the Hong Kong police stated at a press conference on Thursday.

“We believe that phone scams dropped in February because it was Lunar New Year and the scammers probably went back to their homes to celebrate,” said Inspector Lam Cheuk-ho of Kowloon East regional crime unit.

“Every year, there are fewer scams in February, and then after that it rises again from March to July,” he added.

Lam Cheuk Ho CROPPED
Lam Cheuk-ho. Photo: RTHK Screenshot.

He also warned that scammers may attempt to counteract police efforts by changing their tactics.

“Because their success rate have been lowered, they will change their strategies, adding more content into stories as well as making them sound more realistic”.

The police said that there were 2,880 reported cases of phone scams last year, a rise of about 30 per cent on 2014. Of those cases, 516 involved loss of money, totalling about HK$290 million and 1,423 cases involved a scammer pretending to be a mainland official.

Mobile phone
Mobile phone. Photo: Pixabay,

There were eight cases of phone scams reported in March, one of which involved HK$5.8 million. Lam said that the offence in question happened last October, but was only reported this month.

The police also said that they would cooperate with the City University of Hong Kong as well as the technology sector to develop apps that would help citizens identify scammers.

Chantal Yuen is a Hong Kong journalist interested in issues dealing with religion and immigration. She majored in German and minored in Middle Eastern studies at Princeton University.