Hong Kong police have warned the public to stay alert to a fake mobile app disguised as the force’s anti-scam Scameter+ app. The bogus app had been attempting to lure victims into depositing money into scammers’ bank accounts.

Hong Kong Police
Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

Police said on Monday that scammers had sent text messages to people telling them that the authorities had recovered a large sum of money from an online scam in mainland China two years ago, and that the money could now be returned to victims.

Recipients of the messages were sent a link and invited to install a fake Scameter+ app, after which they were prompted to open an account. They were then asked to enter their personal information including their name and address via a chat box, and led to believe they were speaking with a mainland Chinese law enforcement department.

“The scammer would tell them to transfer between 10 and 100 per cent of the money they had been scammed out of to local [bank] accounts as a security deposit,” Baron Chan, acting senior superintendent of the Police Cyber Security and Technology Crime Bureau, said in a press conference.

Chan added that nobody had lost any money so far. No arrests have been made yet.

A smartphone. Photo: freestocks, via Unsplash.

Police launched the Scameter+ app in February amid an uptick in deception cases. The app allows users to search phone numbers, websites, bank account numbers and other information to see if they have been connected to any fraud incidents.

It is a spin-off of the police’s Scameter search engine, which was introduced in October.

According to crime statistics, the city saw 8,886 deception cases in January to March, an increase of 65 per cent from the same period the year before.

“The police strongly condemn scammers posing as the police force to swindle [the public], with the aim of not only causing them to be victimised a second time, but also using this opportunity to hurt police credibility,” Chan said.

He added that the police Scameter+ app would not ask users to provide personal information, and the app was only available for download from three official platforms.

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Hillary has an interest in social issues and politics. Previously, she reported on Asia broadly - including on Hong Kong's 2019 protests - for TIME Magazine and covered local news at Coconuts Hong Kong.