The New York Times uses the word "staggering," and understandably so. Hong Kong police say a 90-year-old woman fell victim to a phone scam that over a period of just six months saw her hand over $32.8 million. The initial caller who contacted her in August reportedly claimed to be a detective from mainland China who told the woman that her identity had been stolen and used in a crime and that they needed to confirm the source of her money, reports the South China Morning Post. Within days, a man posing as a Chinese police officer delivered to her a cell phone that she was instructed to use during the probe. Police say the scammers convinced her to transfer massive amounts of money into accounts they held, and that some 11 transfers occurred between Aug. 12 and Jan. 4, reports the BBC.
A member of her household staff finally let the woman's daughter know what was going on, and a police report was filed in March. The AFP reports police have revealed little about the victim beyond that she lived in a mansion on the Peak, the most exclusive neighborhood in Hong Kong, reports the AFP. A 19-year-old college student with the surname of Wong was arrested on suspicion of "obtaining property by deception." He has been released on bail and the investigation is ongoing. It's said to be the biggest phone scam ever to occur in Hong Kong, which sees plenty of scams, particularly at the hands of people pretending to be Chinese authorities. Hong Kong police identified 1,193 such scams that netted $73 million last year. (Read more scam stories.)