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LCQ14: Combating deception offences
     Following is a question by the Hon Martin Liao and a written reply by the Acting Secretary for Security, Mr Michael Cheuk, in the Legislative Council today (March 15):
     Last year, there were 27 923 deception cases in Hong Kong, representing an increase of 45 per cent when compared with that in the preceding year, with the amount of money involved amounting to $4.8 billion. The increase was mainly attributed to online shopping scams, investment fraud and telephone deception. In addition, it has been reported that new modi operandi of deception have recently emerged. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) as the Commissioner of Police indicated at the special meeting of the Panel on Security of this Council on February 14 this year that the Police had stepped up anti-deception publicity, whether it has assessed if the public's anti-deception awareness has been enhanced as a result;
(2) as it is learnt that earlier on, a number of advertisements purported to be posted by artistes and government officials appeared on the social media platform Facebook and the Internet search engine Google, and some members of the public have incurred losses as a result of being deceived, yet such deceptive advertisements still continue to appear after members of the public have repeatedly reported them to the operators concerned, whether the Police have contacted the operators concerned to find out if they have specific plans or actions to stop deceptive advertisements from being posted, and what new measures the Police have put in place to combat such advertisements;
(3) as it has been reported that the Police are exploring a SMS sender registration system which adds a marker before the trusted SMS messages, whether such arrangement will involve scanning the contents of SMS messages to identify deceptive SMS messages; if so, whether it has studied if such arrangement will involve privacy issues; and
(4) as it has been reported that the "Anti-Scam Test Across the Territory" campaign organised by the Police last year attracted a large number of participants from the general public, whether the Police will consider organising similar campaigns on a regular basis to enhance the public's anti-deception awareness?
     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. The Police continue to adopt a multi-agency approach, working with other government departments, regulatory bodies and the industry to raise public awareness of various types of deception through thematic and large-scale crime prevention activities.
     My reply to the Member's questions is as follows:
(1) and (4) To address different types of deception and technology crimes, the Police organised a series of large-scale publicity activities in 2022, including "Anti-Deception Month" in February, "Anti-Deception Season" and "Anti-money Laundering Month" from May to August, "Emotional Disturbances Faced by Scam Victims" in October and "Anti-Scam Test Across the Territory" from November to December. The Police also launched a one-stop scam and pitfall search engine, "Scameter", to help the public identify suspicious information. As at the end of last year, the search engine recorded about 200 000 searches, of which about 15 000 were related to confirmed deception cases, which is estimated to have successfully alerted users to avoid losses of up to $1.3 billion.
     In addition, the Police have also disseminated deception prevention messages to the general public through various channels, such as the introduction of deception prevention broadcasts in 17 government tunnels, and collaboration with cinemas to broadcast anti-scam videos before movies.
     In 2023, the Police will continue to strengthen collaboration with relevant stakeholders and publicity, including the underway "All-round CyberDefender" campaign and the newly launched "Scameter+" mobile app.
     The Police will continue to adopt diversified and innovative publicity strategies targeting different types of deception. The Police will work with various stakeholders under a multi-agency approach and make use of different channels to raise public awareness of deception cases, so that the general public would remind their family members and friends to be on the lookout for deception at all times. The Police are planning to organise another round of "Anti-Deception Month" and "Anti-money Laundering Month", and are also organising a speech competition and teacher training workshops on the theme of cyber security, as well as producing a simulation game on online deception to continue to raise public awareness of anti-deception on all fronts.
(2) The Cyber Security and Technology Crime Bureau (CSTCB) of the Police is committed to combating technology crimes. CSTCB conducts regular online patrols and investigate suspected illegal activities on the Internet. They will request Internet Service Providers and social media platforms to remove the relevant content as appropriate. The Police also appeal to the public to use the reporting function of the social media platforms to block suspicious content as soon as possible if they encounter fake accounts or inappropriate information. They can also make use of the "Scameter" and "Scameter+" to conduct searches on suspicious websites to identify online frauds.
(3) In late September 2022, the Police, together with the Office of the Communications Authority and mobile network operators, set up a dedicated working group to formulate measures to block telephone scams at the source, including blocking spoofed calls with the prefix "+852", assisting users to filter and block hyperlinks involved in cyber deception, and stopping the provision of services to local mobile phone numbers involved in scams. The working group is working on a registration system for SMS senders, which helps the public identify the authenticity of SMS messages by labelling SMS messages sent by registered companies. The purpose of the mechanism is to distinguish the reliability of the company or organisation sending the SMS, and would not scan the content of the SMS.
Ends/Wednesday, March 15, 2023
Issued at HKT 14:35
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