Hong Kong police arrest 30 in crackdown on ‘compensated dating’, ‘naked-chat blackmail’ scams after 37 conned out of HK$2 million | #DatingScams | #LoveScams | #RomanceScans

Hong Kong police have arrested 30 people in a crackdown on “compensated dating” and “naked-chat blackmail” scams after they allegedly conned 37 people, including a businessman and an engineer, out of HK$2 million (US$256,495).

The suspects, detained in a series of raids over the past 22 days, included 26 holders of bank accounts used to collect the payment from the victims, Senior Inspector Mak Ling-fung of the Wong Tai Sin district crime squad revealed on Thursday.

Mak said the other three held registered SIM cards used to contact some of the victims, while the remaining suspect was accused of selling personal information to help a syndicate book hotel rooms.

The 23 men and seven women, aged between 19 and 56, were detained on suspicion of money laundering and obtaining property by deception.

‘Naked-chat blackmail’ surges as Hongkongers spend more time online

Compensated dating is a disguised form of prostitution in which clients pay for companionship, often including sex.

Scammers typically meet their victims on social media platforms, offer companionship or sex for money and set up a date. Before the meeting, they ask for a “deposit” or “surety” for their services and disappear without a trace once the payment is made.

A 33-year-old businessman was duped out of HK$550,000, making him the biggest victim among the 37 in terms of monetary loss. A con artist posing as a bar waitress befriended him on a dating app in May and offered compensated dating services as a part-time job, according to the senior inspector.

Mak said the victim was charged HK$3,200 for sex, but the scammer invented different excuses to lure him into paying more money.

“In this case, the victim was coerced into sending HK$550,000 to different bank accounts in 10 transactions within five days,” he said, adding the man realised he was conned after the scammer did not show up for the meeting.

In Wong Tai Sin district alone, about 150 residents fell victim to compensated dating and naked-chat blackmail scams in the past 23 months.

Students were among the victims targeted in naked-chat blackmail scams – a form of online extortion in which swindlers looked for potential targets on social media, dating apps and instant messaging platforms.

The con-artists convince victims to remove their clothes during a video call and secretly record them, before threatening to circulate the footage online or distribute it to the victims’ relatives or friends if they refuse to pay.

Hong Kong police log over 700 ‘naked-chat blackmail’ cases in first half of 2022

Mak explained feelings of embarrassment and the relatively low amount of money involved could deter people from filing a police report.

After gathering evidence, officers from the Wong Tai Sin district crime squad launched an arrest operation code-named “Lightshade” which took place between November 1 and 22.

During the operation, police arrested 30 people in connection with 37 cases, in which victims lost more than HK$2 million.

Inspector Lee Wen-hao of the district criminal investigation unit has reminded the public to be cautious when making new friends on social media, protect their personal information and seek help if they fall prey to such scams.

Between January and June this year, police handled 1,142 reports of compensated dating scams involving HK$66.3 million in losses.

There were 833 reports of naked-chat blackmail scams, in which swindlers bagged HK$14.7 million in the first six months of this year.

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