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Police are investigating a phone scam after a woman found her son had sold her jewelry and transferred the money to a man who pretended to be a policeman from mainland China.

The 49-year-old woman initially believed she had been robbed and reported the case as a suspected burglary to the police when she found jewelry worth around HK$250,000 (nearly US$32,000) was missing at her home in Kwong Ming Court in Tseung Kwan O in the New Territories on Sunday night, Apple Daily reported.

Police arrived at her home to investigate. Her 15-year-old son then told the police he had received a call on Sunday morning when he was at home alone. The caller identified himself as an employee for a telecom operator – and accused the boy of being involved in a criminal case. The scammer told the boy that he was on a wanted list.

The scammer then transferred the call to a second man, who pretended to be a law enforcement agent from Beijing.

The “Beijing policeman” told the boy to transfer a large amount of money to keep his record clean. When the conman found out the boy had no money, he instructed the boy to take all valuables at his home to a pawn shop in Shenzhen.

The boy took his mother’s jewelry – gold bracelets, gold rings and other items – to the pawn shop as instructed. He then transferred the proceeds to a bank account in mainland China before returning to Hong Kong.

Hong Kong police believe the boy, said to be a Secondary Three-level student, was the latest victim of a common phone scam. Further inquiries are ongoing.

They said 78 phone scams had been reported in the first two months of this year, up 59% compared to the same period of last year.

The largest case so far this year happened on March 18 when a 19-year-old female student from mainland China was scammed out of HK$3.5 million. The young woman received a call from a man who claimed he was a government official from mainland China who accused her of being involved in a money laundering.

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