A general view showing the Central Business District in Hong Kong on Sept 15, 2021. (Reuters photo)

HONG KONG: Hong Kong is experiencing an explosion in investment scams, with the number of cases more than tripling in the first seven months of 2021, and the amount of money stolen increasing nearly 20-fold, according to police statistics.

Between January and July, police received reports of 725 investment scams resulting in some HK$2.5 billion (10.87 billion baht) in losses, including a single case in which a victim was duped out of HK$9 million. By comparison, there were just 198 cases in the same period last year, with scammers making off with a total of HK$128 million.

This year also marked the first time fraudsters stole non-fungible tokens, or NFTs – “one-of-a-kind” digital assets such as art and collectibles stored using blockchain technology – from buyers via phishing scams.

Police attributed the sharp uptick, in part, to the pandemic, which saw Hongkongers spending more time at home, which in turn gave them increased opportunities to meet people online, and scammers more chances to find victims.

“Scammers will use social media to get close to their victims and promote ‘high return, low risk’ online investment products, but many of these products don’t actually exist,” said Ngan Hoi-ian, chief inspector at the…

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