Hong Kong police are warning people not to give details of their WhatsApp accounts to others because of the risk of their accounts being hacked.

According to police figures, in the first three months of this year alone, 152 people fell victim to WhatsApp scams, losing a total of HK$2.7 million (US$344,169), Sing Tao Daily reported.

Nearly half the victims were aged between 41 and 60, while 17% were older than 60.

In October 2017, the instant messaging application used text messaging to send a six-digit code to help users verify the link between their mobile phone number and their WhatsApp accounts.

Scammers then made use of hijacked WhatsApp accounts and pretended to be friends or relatives of WhatsApp users to trick them into revealing their codes and passwords. Once the scammers had a user’s verification code, they could log in to the target’s WhatsApp account and hack it.

In one case, a 48-year-old man living in Tuen Mun was cheated out of HK$430,848 when messages from his sister’s hacked account asked him to purchase stored-value game cards.

Certain that the messages came from his sister, the victim bought 169 cards and unwittingly sent the serial numbers to the scammers, enabling them to use the prepaid values.

Officers called on people to activate WhatsApp’s two-step verification system to enhance account security.