Hong Kong is a very safe city; nevertheless the likelihood of criminal activity does exist, particularly in Hong Kong’s nighttime economic areas. The following suggestions help identify situations in which criminals target customers in bars and attempt to tamper with their drinks to procure their Credit /ATM Cards and associated Personal Identification Numbers (PINs).
What is the risk?
The risk that individuals or organised syndicates seeking to steal Credit/ATM cards and associated Personal Identification Number (PIN) may target customers visiting bars, nightclubs, or discos in Hong Kong’s nighttime economic areas cannot be ruled out.
Someone who overly flirts, or offers sex services, may be endeavouring to ‘spike’ a customer’s drink with soporific drugs, such as Rohypnol (flunitrazepam) pills, or its liquid cousin GHB (gamma-hydroxybutryate). The drugs diffuse quickly and are tasteless, odourless, and colourless. They cause victims to become disoriented, unconscious, lower their inhibitions as well as cause memory blackouts. Whilst under the influence of these drugs victims are induce to use or handover their Credit/ATM Cards and PINs to suspects. Victims often only realise they have been targeted and robbed when checking their bank accounts the next day, or when they try to withdraw cash but find their daily limit has been exceeded.
Who is the Target?
- Mainly lone male western tourists or visitors.
Who is the Suspect?
- Organised criminal syndicates using females in their late 20s to 50s; or
- ‘Freelancers’ such as:
- Sex workers; or
- Females in their late 20s to 50s.
How does it work?
- Suspects approach targets in bars, nightclubs or discos;
- When the targets are not looking they ‘spike’ their drink with a soporific drug, in tablet, powder, or common liquid form;
- Once intoxicated the target becomes highly susceptible to suggestion;
- Suspects often propose the target leaves the bar etc. with them and go to a hotel or guesthouse;
- On the way the target is persuaded to withdraw money from an ATM;
- When the target withdraws cash from the ATM, the suspect ‘shoulder surfs’ to obtain the PIN number for the card;
- When the target falls unconscious due to the affects of the drugs, the suspect(s) takes the bankcard(s), withdraws the maximum daily cash limit from the target’s account; returns the bankcard(s); and leaves the target to ‘sleep-it-off’ in a bar, hotel or guesthouse.
What is our Advice?
This risk can be greatly reduced by taking simple precautions, such as:
- Be wary of someone who overly flirts or offers sex services, in a bar etc.;
- Never leave drinks unattended and avoid sharing other people's drinks;
- Do not accept drinks from strangers;
- Prefer unopened bottled or canned drinks to drinks served in glasses;
- Socialise in the company of friends or people you know;
- Look for obvious signs of tampering, such as: the drink being moved from where it was left; the straw taken out or one put in; less or more liquid in the glass than when last seen, odd bubbling or fizzing, a different colour or odour, floaters of any kind, empty medicinal packets as well as any suspicious tablets/powder/small bottles of liquid that include eye drop bottles and medicine bottles next to the glass or on the floor nearby; and
- If you feel suspicious or the situation isn’t right, keep alert, limit drinking and request help from friends; or
- Call 999 to seek help from the Hong Kong Police .