Hong Kong police have reported a total of 272 cases in which victims lost about HK$130 million (US$16.5 million) to online scammers in the first half of this year. There were 78 cases reported in the same period of last year.

Of the victims, 95% victims were women who fell for con men online, Sing Tao Daily reported, adding that 80% of them were aged between 31 and 60 and most are white-collar workers or employed in the service industry.

A spokesperson from the Anti-Deception Coordination Centre (ADCC), which was set up last year, said it is not always easy to persuade people that they have been cheated.

Officers from the Centre said last month they managed to stop a woman from transferring HK$200,000 to a con artist who posed as an American soldier based in Turkey, Apple Daily reported.

After a staff member at the victim’s bank became concerned when the woman wanted to transfer money to an account which had been identified as suspicious, the bank informed the ADCC.

When ADCC officers arrived at the bank, however, they had to spend several hours trying to convince the middle-aged woman that the man she had been chatting to online since the beginning of the year was not her boyfriend.

The woman refused to trust the officer until the officer told her that he would rather the woman filed a complaint against him than allow her to be cheated.

Another recent case saw a woman tricked out of HK$10,000 after she believed she had been chatting online to a prince. She finally accepted that she had been conned when she saw a news report about how the actual prince had just got married.