A suspected case of dog meat sales has taken a new turn after a Hong Kong police probe found that the vendor behind the product on social media allegedly duped at least 10 customers out of HK$1.14 million (US$146,246) by tricking them into sharing their personal details through an app.
Police revealed their latest findings on Monday after authorities launched an investigation a day earlier into the online trader on Facebook claiming to sell the dog meat, which is illegal in the city, following a public outcry over the social media adverts.
The force said the vendor had asked customers to pay a HK$30 deposit through the banks’ Faster Payment System (FPS) or share their bank account details through a link to an Android app, enabling the fraudster to transfer their savings.
Users of iPhones were given an FPS number linked to an animal shelter and told to send the amount to the account, the force added.
Police said they had logged at least 10 cases since September, involving losses of more than HK$1.14 million.
“After a preliminary investigation, officers suspect that fraudsters set up the social media page to request customers to transfer money to pay a deposit under the pretext of selling the ‘fragrant meat’, or sent links to lure customers into downloading suspected bogus mobile apps to place orders,” a police spokesman said in a statement on Sunday night.
The spokesman said police were carrying out a joint investigation with the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department to determine if other offences were involved.
The advert on Facebook claiming to sell dog meat for HK$328 per kilogram sparked a furious response from more 4,600 internet users, with some tagging the force and government departments, prompting authorities to investigate.
It shows two meat-based dishes next to a cartoon dog with a caption in Chinese that uses the phrase “fragrant meat”, a colloquial term for dog meat.
The post was published on Friday by an account created on October 10 but the Post observed that it had been edited and previously said “dog meat”.
An investigation by the Post on Sunday also discovered that the alleged dog meat vendor was using an FPS number that was linked to a dog shelter in the city.
The Hong Kong Homeless Dog Shelter linked to the FPS number has denied selling dog meat and has since met with local police.
In a statement posted at around 2am on Monday, the shelter’s co-founder Angela Chan said she was aware of the false rumours and that the charity’s FPS number had been used by someone else.
“We hereby state that the Hong Kong Homeless Dog Shelter has never sold or traded dog meat,” the charity said.
The vendor told the Post earlier that they were using the shelter’s FPS number to “help them”. When asked for more information, the individual demanded a monetary reward.
The force’s cybersecurity and technology crime bureau said it would continue to follow up on the suspected bogus app and social media page to prevent members of the public from being deceived.
The slaughter and sale of dog and cat meat – and its use for food – is illegal in Hong Kong, with offenders facing up to six months in prison and a maximum fine of HK$5,000.