Scammers chase the dollars

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By RACHEL MACDONALD

Rangiora police are warning people not to give out personal details to strangers on the phone, as the region fields an outbreak of calls from increasingly creative scammers.

This has even included half a dozen Rangiora Police Station numbers dialled by fraudsters hoping for a quick buck, Rangiora Senior Sergeant Paul Reeves says.

“I just got one of the more standard calls, telling me I had issues with my computer that only that call centre could fix.

“However, some scams that are being reported to us are another level up in terms of their sophistication.”

Victims include one individual who lost $300,000 in an online cryptocurrency scam.

“It might seem obvious, but the reason these scams are still around is that they must have a certain rate of success – you can’t be too careful.”

He tells of one local who fielded a call purporting to be from the Serious Fraud Office regarding a refund that needed to be paid into a personal account.

The money then had to be transferred into another account, and the moment that happened, it disappeared. It transpired the “refund”, while it looked to be showing in the account balance, never existed, and the same amount of real funds had been stolen as the transfer was made.

“Another person got a call from the IRD saying it had been in touch with their accountant regarding an overdue tax payment.

“This was followed by multiple calls from the accountant’s number over five hours, ratcheting up the pressure, before a payment of $5000 was eventually made to the IRD and simply disappeared,” he says.

“At some point in that first call, the target must have let slip the name of their accountant, and technology let the scammers take things from there.”

Of the reported calls, one was routed through the United States, while another seemed to have originated in Nelson.

However, it’s not just phone scams that we need to be keeping an eye out for, he says.

“One guy came to us having lost $300,000 in an online crypto-currency scam. He’d found a business website that encouraged him to invest multiple small amounts in crypto-currency and led him to understand he was watching real-time graphs showing the appreciation of his investment.

“The moment he went to withdraw his money, it disappeared and there was
no more contact from the brokers.”

He suggests that anyone receiving any kind of remotely suspicious call
simply hang up and contact their bank directly.

It is advice backed up by the New Zealand Telecommunications
Forum, which recommends being alert for calls from unknown or blocked phone numbers, or an unexpected or odd call from a trusted
number.

It adds that no bank, charity, or government department will request
money or personal information over the phone, or pressure individuals to
make a quick decision at the risk of facing negative consequences.