LCQ17: Combating deception offences
Following is a question by the Hon Cheung Kwok-kwan and a written reply by the Secretary for Security, Mr Tang Ping-keung, in the Legislative Council today (June 15):
In 2021, there were a total of 19 249 deception cases in Hong Kong, representing a significant increase of 3 696 cases as compared with 2020, and a year-on-year increase of 23.8 per cent. Among these cases, over 70 per cent were related to online deception cases. The surge was mainly attributed to the deception cases involving compensated dating scams, online romance scams, investment and online employment. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) of the number of reports of online deception received by the Police in each of the past five years, and set out, by type of crimes (e.g. online financial fraud, online virtual currency trading fraud, and fraud involving virtual asset trading platforms), the following information: the number of crimes, the amount of defrauded money involved, the number of law enforcement operations mounted, the number of cases detected, the detection rates, and the number of persons arrested;
(2) among the cases mentioned in (1), of the number of those involving the participation of overseas individuals in the commission of the crimes and the number of persons arrested, as well as the amount of defrauded money involved;
(3) of the number of deception cases successfully intercepted by the Anti-Deception Coordination Centre (ADCC) and the amount of defrauded money involved, in each year since its establishment in July 2017;
(4) given that online deception cases have become increasingly rampant, whether the ADCC will increase manpower and deploy additional resources in three areas, namely intelligence exchanges and enforcement actions, cross agency co-operation, as well as publicity and education, so as to prevent deception cases, strengthen enforcement, intercept payments to fraudsters and raise the public’s anti-deception awareness; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and
(5) of the number of deception cases received so far by the Police relating to electronic consumption vouchers, and the amount of defrauded money involved; among such cases, the respective numbers of those involving stealing other persons’ personal information to fraudulently collect consumption vouchers and cashing in other persons’ consumption vouchers in discounted prices; whether the Police have formulated targeted strategies to combat deception cases involving electronic consumption vouchers; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
Deception is a serious offence. Any person who commits the offence of fraud under section 16A of the Theft Ordinance (Cap. 210) is liable to imprisonment for up to 14 years, while any person who is charged with obtaining property by deception under section 17 of the same ordinance is liable to imprisonment for up to 10 years. In addition, any person charged with dealing with property known or believed to represent proceeds of an indictable offence under section 25 of the Organized and Serious Crimes Ordinance (Cap. 455) for proceeds of deception is liable to imprisonment for up to 14 years and a fine of HK$5,000,000. The Police will continue to raise public awareness and combat different types of deception by strengthening law enforcement, publicity and education, multi-agency co-operation, intelligence analysis and cross-boundary collaboration.
My reply to the questions raised by the Member is as follows:
(1) and (2) The number of online deception cases in the past 5 years and the amount of loss involved are set out in Annex 1 and Annex 2 respectively. The Police do not maintain the other information requested in the question.
(3) and (4) The round the clock Anti Deception Coordination Centre (ADCC) was established in July 2017 to comprehensively co-ordinate Police resources, enhance collaboration with stakeholders, reinforce the combat against deception and raise public awareness of scams. The ADCC’s duties include managing and operating the 24 hour hotline “Anti Scam Helpline 18222”; co-operating with the banking sector and overseas law enforcement agencies to intercept payments to fraudsters; mounting intelligence-led law enforcement operations; collaborating proactively with relevant stakeholders; and co-ordinating anti-deception publicity efforts.
The ADCC closely monitors deception cases in the territory, analyses crime trends, and timely co-ordinates the anti-scam operations of various police formations. Its Intelligence and Scam Response Team is dedicated to analysing the money laundering networks behind deception cases, and taking law enforcement actions to crack down on money laundering activities related to scams.
As deception and money-laundering crimes are transboundary in nature, the fight against these crimes relies on the full co-operation among overseas and local stakeholders. Through close police co-operation mechanism, the ADCC exchanges intelligence with overseas law enforcement agencies so as to take corresponding actions. From time to time, the ADCC also shares with local banks measures and strategies for combating deception and money-laundering, encouraging them to guard against suspicious accounts that handle fraudulent payments by conducting customer due diligence more cautiously and using technology appropriately.
To heighten public awareness of deception, the ADCC analyses the trends of various types of deception as well as the profile of victims, and co-ordinates with relevant police formations to formulate comprehensive anti-scam publicity strategies. The Police created an anti-scam mascot, the “Little Grape” (its Chinese name is an abbreviation, meaning to be mindful of scammers) in mid-2020 to disseminate light-hearted and simple anti-scam messages.
As at April 2022, the ADCC successfully intercepted HK$10.4 billion of fraudulent payments in respect of 3 145 deception cases. The breakdown by year is as follows:
(January to April)
|Number of cases||108||443||623||837||833||301|
Initially, the ADCC comprised staff from various divisions under the Commercial Crime Bureau of the Hong Kong Police Force. In 2018-19, 13 permanent posts were created to provide dedicated support to the ADCC. The number of staff in the ADCC has now increased to 40, among which 26 are on permanent establishment and 14 are seconded from different Police formations. In 2022-23, six posts will be created in the establishment of the ADCC to replace some of the positions currently filled by staff members on temporary secondment. By then, the number of staff on permanent establishment in the ADCC will increase to 32. The Police will review the manpower and resources of various formations from time to time to meet policing needs.
(5) As at April 2022, the Police received a total of 458 reports in relation to consumption vouchers. Among them, 187 involved fraudulent use of personal data to impersonate another to claim the vouchers, 32 involved cashing in the vouchers, and the remaining 239 involved refusal to return the vouchers wrongly deposited into another person’s account due to the incorrect information submitted by the applicants. The Police will take resolute enforcement actions against any person who is found to be using the vouchers unlawfully.