Three suspected Hong Kong fraudsters have been arrested after it was alleged they used bad cheques to cheat 12 people out of products worth HK$710,000 (US$91,000) in shopping scams over the past two months.

Police said on Tuesday one was detained during a face-to-face transaction with an alleged victim in Yau Ma Tei the previous day.

Officers later arrested the other two, said to be key members of a fraud syndicate, in a follow-up operation in the same district.

The two men and one woman, aged from 28 to 36, were detained on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud – an offence punishable by up to 14 years in prison.

Police received reports from 12 people who claimed they had been cheated while selling goods through online shopping platforms between March 25 and May 23.

“The products included handbags, wallets and watches with a total amount of around HK$710,000,” the force said. “The most valuable item was a watch worth HK$185,000.”

The victims were cheated out of products worth around HK$710,000, police said. Photo: Warton Li

Police said the fraudsters posed as buyers and expressed interest in items posted on shopping platforms.

The alleged victims were told to provide their bank account details to receive the payments and face-to-face transactions were arranged after an online deal was arranged.

“Fraudsters deposited bad cheques into the related accounts through automated teller machines to create the impression that the money had been transferred,” police said.

The force added people handed over the items during meetings after they were asked to check their online banking transaction records and saw the agreed amounts listed on their accounts.

Police said the people only realised they had been scammed when the cheques bounced.

The three people arrested were still being held for questioning on Tuesday afternoon.

The force said the investigation continued and that more arrests had not been ruled out.

Officers added that account balances that showed the funds believed to have been deposited did not mean the transactions had gone through and that the cash had been on hold until the cheques cleared.

The number of online shopping frauds rose by 2.4 per cent to 8,950 last year from 8,735 in 2022.

But the financial losses involved rose by 156 per cent to HK$190 million in 2023 from HK$74 million recorded the year before.