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Elaborate widow scam sees Kiwi suffer 'significant' financial loss

By Shannon Williams
Thu 4 Feb 2016
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Another Kiwi has fell victim to a phishing scam resulting in significant financial loss, according to the Department of Internal Affairs.

According to the DIA, the scammers posed as a terminally ill widow and initiated ongoing correspondence with the victim via Facebook. The widow claimed to have no relatives and stated that she was making the victim the beneficiary of her will.

A series of elaborately planned events and communications followed the purported death of the widow. This led to the victim being convinced this was a legitimate inheritance and paying significant fees to release the money.

The scam was rather elaborate, according to the details released by the DIA.

When the victim stopped paying these fees, she received a letter which appeared to be from the Minister of Internal Affairs, Hon Peter Dunne and the chief executive of the Department of Internal Affairs, Colin MacDonald. The letter threatened extradition to Dubai to face criminal charges unless the payments continued.

“This scam demonstrates the considerable lengths scammers will go to in pursuit of their victims,” says Maarten Quivooy, general manager for Regulatory Services at the Department of Internal Affairs.

“Incidents like this are carried out by highly organised groups or individuals overseas who target their victims and earn their trust through a series of well-executed communications backed up by seemingly credible documentation,” he says.

The matter has been reported to the Police and Consumer Affairs.

According to NetSafe, incident statistics for the period October – December 2015 show 2186 online incidents reported by New Zealanders, which incurred a total loss of $3,146,284 across the country. These relate to online scams and frauds, privacy breaches, online trading complaints, computer system attacks and objectionable material.

“At first glance, online scams seem genuine but if you’re not sure then verify the authenticity of the communication first,” Quivooy adds. “Ultimately, if it sounds too good to be true – it most probably is.”

The matter has been reported to the Police and Consumer Affairs.

There are a number of ways people can protect themselves from online scams. It is probably a scam if:

• you don't know the sender

• it's addressed to 'My Dear' or something generic

• there are too many grammatical or spelling errors in the email or SMS text message

• the email address is a public service domain like Gmail / Yahoo / Livemail

• a bank that you don't have an account with contacts you

• you are urged to visit a website to update your account information or fill in a form with personal information

• you're advised to act fast to claim money or some other prize in a lottery or competition that you never entered

• you’re told you’ve inherited money or possessions from someone you've never heard of

• you receive a request from a stranger who needs your help (usually to send money)

• someone on a social networking site asks you to send them money so they can pay debts or so that they can visit you.

If you think you have been the victim of scam:

• Always report the crime to the police in the first instance

• Contact your bank if you have passed on your bank or credit card details;

• Report the incident to Netsafe via its one-stop online reporting button orb

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