MOTION ON “COMBATING CYBER FRAUD CRIMES ON ALL FRONTS”
Deputy President, with the rapid development of information technology, online banking and third-party payment tools, fraudsters can reach a large number of targets at all times with just a computer. Even if only a few people eventually fall for it, fraudsters can still make a profit. Low cost and high profit make cyber fraud ineradicable. The number of fraud cases remains high and the amount of money lost continues to rise, causing great harm to Hong Kong as well as the global community. I am grateful to Dr Johnny NG for proposing the motion to urge the Government to enhance the existing measures for combating cyber fraud.
There are countless ways to commit cyber fraud, but regardless of the “script”, the ultimate goal is to defraud people of their money. Banks are the major stakeholders and a key line of defence in combating fraud. I noticed that some banks have announced that they will gradually replace a number of online financial services with mobile banking applications because multi-factor authentication (e.g. fingerprint or facial recognition) is required to log in to mobile applications. Some banking applications have started to forbid screen capture or recording. It is believed that this will be able to protect users to a certain extent. Meanwhile, in order to enhance the protection of credit card holders, banks provide a “one-click block card” function online or via mobile applications, so that clients may deactivate their credit cards as soon as possible in the event of a theft to prevent loss.
I am also pleased to note that the Police, in collaboration with the Hong Kong Monetary Authority and banks, have introduced a series of anti-fraud measures in recent months to prevent lawbreakers from exploiting the financial system to receive payments and engage in money laundering activities. According to the Police, after launching the new scheme with major banks, it can identify the victims proactively by analysing the transaction records of the “stooge accounts”. Since the introduction of the scheme, as Members have mentioned just now, more than 200 people have been dissuaded from transferring money to fraudsters, thus successfully minimizing the financial losses of the victims. I believe that we must continue to strengthen the exchange of intelligence and information sharing between the Police and the banking industry for immediate follow-up actions in order to better protect the public and minimize their loss in the event of fraud.
However, by the time people realize that they have been defrauded, lawbreakers might have already transferred the payments in batches, withdrawn the cash and disappeared. Their repeatedly forged identities and uncertainty in online tracking make it very challenging to investigate and recover the funds. In the case of cyber fraud, prevention is significantly more effective than relying solely on remedies.
Among the various types of cyber fraud, investment fraud causes the highest loss, as mentioned by many colleagues just now. The Investor and Financial Education Council is dedicated to enhancing Hong Kong people’s financial knowledge and capability. It should cooperate with the Police proactively to step up education on investment knowledge and raise the public’s awareness about this type of fraud. Moreover, the Police stated that it will continue to enhance the functions of “Scameter” to issue alerts when users browse suspicious websites and receive suspicious calls by employing automatic identification. I hope this function will continue to be refined to prevent fraud.
On the other hand, although the Office of the Communications Authority, the Police and major telecommunication companies have implemented a series of measures to block the source, I still receive SMS messages and pre-recorded suspicious calls that claim to be from government departments and commercial organizations. Deputy President, I received two of those just now. There is also a mobile application similar to “Scameter” in Singapore which uses artificial intelligence to automatically filter fraudulent SMS messages and incoming calls. I hope the authorities can draw reference from that to intercept suspicious SMS messages.
Telecommunications and cyber fraud is often cross-platform and cross-industry. Apart from financial institutions, non-bank payment institutions and telecommunications business operators, social media applications such as WhatsApp and search engine operators such as Google also have an unshirkable responsibility for maintaining cybersecurity and protecting the rights of users. In addition to cooperation with key industries, the Government should also establish a multi-industry cooperation platform to strengthen communication among various parties and enhance anti-fraud data integration and information sharing, thereby implementing a cross-industry, cross-platform collaboration and rapid response mechanism which serves as a “protection net” for the public, of which the scope and resistance will continue to expand to achieve the objective of effectively combating telecommunications and cyber fraud.
Deputy President, I support the original motion and the amendments proposed by the seven Members. I so submit.