A total of 31 men in Hong Kong have fallen victim to a naked-chat blackmailing scheme run by a gang in mainland China, with one losing as much as HK$220,000 (US$28,029), according to the Hong Kong Police.
The force warned that such cases are on the rise, with the city reporting a 40 percent increase in naked-chat blackmailing cases in the first half of this year compared with the same period last year.
An RTHK report on Friday quoted the police as saying they have helped take down the gang, based in Jiangxi province, that has been blackmailing men in Hong Kong by threatening to send nude photos and sex videos of them to their family and friends between August 2021 and April this year.
The victims are all gay men aged between 18 and 54.
One 33-year-old victim is said to have lost over HK$220,000. He used up all his savings and also borrowed money from his relatives.
Officers said the victims were tricked into downloading malicious software that stole their mobile phone contacts by people they met through dating apps.
The gang then threatened the victims into paying ransoms through gift cards or it would send photos and videos obtained through “naked chats” to their families and friends.
The force said mainland police have arrested 12 people in Ganzhou since April in connection with the cases.
The police also believe the syndicate is connected to at least 19 similar offenses in Malaysia and Singapore, and they have passed the relevant information to Interpol.
The investigation began after the police found a server that had been used for naked-chat blackmailing during an operation to identify and remove botnet servers and phishing websites.
Superintendent Wilson Tam from the police’s cyber security and technology crime bureau warned that naked-chat blackmail cases are on the rise and the victims are getting younger.
There were 708 naked-chat blackmail cases in the city in the first half of this year. That is 43 percent more than the same period last year.
More than 60 percent of the suspected victims were aged under 30, with the youngest only 12.