Over the past couple of years, FSCL has investigated complaints from Kiwi consumers who were unhappy that the money remittance company they used to transfer money to a “partner” overseas stopped payment due to concerns that they were victims of online scams.
As FSCL’s case notes show:
In one investigation, a man had been sending money to his “girlfriend” Anna in Nigeria for around eight years after Anna contacted Philip by an email. During this time, he had helped Anna financially as she “trained as a nurse”.
In another, Adrian was sending money to his “girlfriend” in Nigeria who was working in a “ United Nations Peacekeeping Mission”, was sick and needed $100 to her to pay for her medication.
And in a third, after five years of corresponding with and sending his “fiancé”, Lia, money for necessities while living in a “war torn country” that Dan discovered he had fallen victim to a sophisticated scam, again, only after the money exchange company refused to transfer the funds and questioned Lia.
The common theme across all these cases was that the people who fell victim had never met the loves of their lives but had been groomed over long periods of time and had unfortunately fallen prey to highly sophisticated fraudsters.
Netsafe reported last year that New Zealanders lost up to almost $23 million due to scams and in the last quarter (April to June 2020) people reported a combined loss of $3.67 million in 1,278 reported cases.
FSCL Chief Executive Susan Taylor said that FSCL is happy to support and raise awareness around Fraud Awareness Week which runs from 15 November to 21 November. The initiative is organised by a group of cross- government agencies, which includes The Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment ( MBIE), amongst others and is a great opportunity to remind people to ask themselves: “ Is this for real” when it comes to online scams.
“With online transactions and social media part of everyday life for most New Zealanders, scams are becoming more technologically sophisticated with fraudsters constantly designing new ways of scamming their victims,” said Ms Taylor, adding that previous examples have shown that despite the growing sophistication of scams, people are still falling for the same old tricks.
“It is really important for New Zealanders to get up to speed with the type of scams that are doing the rounds and heed advice for staying safe online.”
FSCL’s tips when sending funds via a money transfer service:
- Never send money to people you do not personally know and trust.
- Never provide your personal information (e.g. date of birth) and banking information to people or businesses you do not know.
- If communicating by email, look for red flags like poor grammar, misspellings, and excessive capitalisation.
- Be cautious when dealing with people who say they currently live overseas or are out of New Zealand on business. Scammers tell victims this to explain why they cannot meet in person.
- If you believe you may have been the victim of fraud, contact the money transfer service as soon as possible and the police.