Eight men and one woman from two gangs suspected of scamming more than MOP 12 million via credit card frauds were arrested in Macao earlier this month, Judiciary Police (PJ) spokesman Ho Chan Nam has announced.
In response to numerous cases of theft of credit card data last year, the PJ carried out a joint investigation with their Hong Kong counterparts called Operation Soaring Star 2020, resulting in 53 arrests.
Ho said the PJ and the Hong Kong police carried out another Operation Soaring Star this month arresting a total of 16 suspects. The nine apprehended in Macao included a student, a civil servant and three staff members of a trading firm.
Ho underlined that the PJ discovered for the first time that scammers had used smartphones to link up stolen credit card data, and then just scanned their smartphones to purchase electronic products and sell them for a profit.
According to Ho, the PJ arrested four local men, including the suspected ringleader, aged between 25 and 34 in separate raids at their homes and workplaces near the Barrier Gate checkpoint on Tuesday. Three of them admitted to having been paid between MOP 12,000 and MOP 18,000 by the ringleader who admitted that he was in charge of paying as well as providing the stolen credit card data to the trio, telling them to buy the products in electronic goods shops in the northern district and Cotai.
The trio was told to purchase more than 3,000 smartphones in a short period of time in September this year, and used smartphones to scan payment apps linked to stolen overseas credit card data, according to Ho.
The case involved the data of 840 credit cards with over 900 transactions amounting to more than MOP 12 million, Ho said. Credit card centres reported a loss of MOP 5.7 million while the status of the remaining MOP 6.7 million has yet to be confirmed, according to Ho.
Ho said that the smartphones bought by the trio on behalf of the gang were taken to Hong Kong and the mainland for resale.
The quartet was transferred to the Public Prosecutions Office (MP) yesterday, facing fraud charges, Ho added.
Ho said that five other suspects involved in another credit card scam gang were caught separately in December. The suspects admitted to soliciting part-time jobs online and lent their AppleIDs to link with stolen credit card data provided by the gang. They used stolen card data to buy a large amount of game tokens via their gaming accounts, claiming that they got MOP 10 per transaction. The PJ discovered that the data of at least six local credit cards were stolen, involving transactions worth MOP 42,600.
The case has been transferred to the Public Prosecutions Office (MP). The suspects face computer fraud charges, according to Ho.
Ho added that the Hong Kong police arrested five men and two women aged between 21 and 71during the operation yesterday, involving seven credit cards and transactions worth more than HK$100,000, The Macau Post Daily reported.
The PJ urged the public to protect their personal and credit card data and not to lend their online accounts to others. Anyone suspecting to have fallen victim to credit card fraud is urged to call the PJ hotline 993.