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Hong Kong cryptocurrency crimes hits record levels in first half of 2021, one victim lost nearly $16 million

Hong Kong cryptocurrency crimes rose to a record in the first six months of this year, with one victim suffering $15.9 million in damages. Police logged 496 such cases involving victims losing a total of $27.5 million in the first half of 2021. Across the whole of last year, total losses from 208 cases stood at $14.7 million, South China Morning Post reported.

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Crimes involving cryptocurrency are on the rise not only in Hong Kong but worldwide

In the biggest case in Hong Kong to date, a 30-year-old man was scammed of $15.9 million in June after a group presenting as cryptocurrency consultants disappeared with his money following the currency’s devaluation. This year, there were also three local cases in which people were robbed or scammed of millions of dollars in live crypto transactions.

Lester Ip Cheuk-yu – Chief Inspector and head of the police’s cybersecurity and technology crime bureau said not only was investing in cryptocurrency especially popular this year, but the COVID-19 pandemic was a factor behind rising crime levels in this area.

“People have also been staying at home more, which means they spend longer on the internet, so scammers have more avenues to approach them online,” he said. “This is a trend not just in Hong Kong but around the world.”

It is probably true that people are spending so much time at home because of the pandemic, and thus they become easy targets for crypto scams. The local authorities estimated that the total cases of such crimes between January and July 2021 were 496.

Interestingly, more than half of the $27 million registered losses were conned out of a 30-year-old man who parted with almost $16 million after three people lured him into a shady Filecoin investment. The victim handed over money in two installments in February and April. Filecoin’s share price dropped from $168 to $73, prompting the victim to try and withdraw the cash in June. But the merchant could not contact the group and sought help from the police.

According to police, cryptocurrency crimes tend to fall into one of three categories:

  1. Using cryptocurrency for money laundering
  2. Online shopping fraud where buyers or sellers may be robbed during face-to-face transactions
  3. Investment scams where sellers disappear after taking a victim’s money

“Citizens should think twice about whether the person asking them to invest is trustworthy or whether meetup places for large transactions are safe,” Ip said. “Many residents don’t understand cryptocurrency or overestimate their knowledge of it. It’s straightforward for them to be scammed and lose large amounts of money.”

Ip urges the public to research, stay away from borrowing money to invest, and not blindly follow trends. Those who suspect they have scammed should call the police immediately, the chief inspector added.

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