April 21 (UPI) -- Scammers in Hong Kong conned a wealthy woman out of tens of millions of U.S. dollars after tricking her into believing they were law enforcement officials from mainland China.
The unidentified 90-year-old woman, a resident of Hong Kong's wealthy and exclusive Peak neighborhood, lost $32 million after following orders from criminals, Sky News reported Wednesday.
Scammers first contacted the woman, who lived alone but hired a housekeeper, in July of last year, according to the South China Morning Post.
Criminals claimed the woman's identity was being exploited in a "serious criminal case," a Hong Kong police source told the Post.
"She was then instructed to transfer her money to designated bank accounts to investigate whether the cash was the proceeds of crime," the source said.
Phone and other online scams are common in Hong Kong, reports say. According to Sky News, the city launched an Anti-Deception and Coordination Center in 2017 to address the issue.
The Post reported phone scams in the first quarter of 2021 were up by 18% to 200. Scammers have stolen as much as $45 million in Hong Kong this year.
The case involving the elderly woman is under investigation. Local police have arrested a 19-year-old university student in connection to the scam.
Authorities in Hong Kong have been able to freeze an account with $1.16 million, but the rest of the funds remain missing, according to the Post.
On Wednesday, in a separate case, Hong Kong police arrested a 25-year-old man who had been impersonating a police officer while trying to steal funds from one of his victims.
The scammer asked his victim, a resident of Tuen Mun village, to disclose his online banking information.
The victim called police after he noticed his account had been hacked, according to reports.