24 Sep 2015
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Online scams still happening, Police warn

By Shannon Williams

The Police are again warning the Kiwi public over scams as the number and ways of people being scammed continue to grow.

Canterbury Police are the latest unit urging the public to be vigilant for online and email scams, in the wake of several recent complaints relating to fraudulent behaviour.

Detective Sergeant Craig Farrant from Canterbury Police’s Fraud Squad says people of all ages and backgrounds fall victim to false promises and fake offers.

“No one in the community is immune from being a target,” Farrant says. “With the increased use of digital technology tech savvy people are increasing their risk and exposure to fraudulent online transactions and solicitations.”

Farrant says the elderly are particularly vulnerable to financial exploitation by relatives and/or caregivers.

“Retirees may have spare capital for investment or travelling more and booking holidays online,” he explains. “They may also, because of their current situation, have started buying goods online or be new to online dating. This makes them more vulnerable to online scams.”

However, Farrant says not all scams that target this demographic are online. “Often they have cash on them and as they are more likely to be home during the day could become the victim of fraudulent cold callers,” he says.

"If something seems too good to be true it probably is,” says Farrant. “Everyone needs to make sure an offer is genuine before they hand over any money whether it’s online or at your door.

“In real life one does not simply ‘become’ the long lost relative of a Nigerian Prince or magically win a lottery that they have never entered,” he states.

“It is almost impossible to recover money once it has been transferred or paid out. This is why prevention is the best cure – take time to look at the ‘offer’ and ask questions," Farrant explains.

The numbers and ways of being scammed are growing and it can be daunting trying to weed the scams from bona fide offers, Farrant sympathises. In response, the Police are providing some tips to help potential victims avoid being scammed:

• If something sounds too good to be true it usually is.

• Don't respond to letters or emails saying you won the lottery - you haven't - it is always a scam.

• Legitimate offers and sites never require you to withdraw your money from your bank and send it through money transfer services such as Western Union.

• Research a ‘deal’ or ‘investment opportunity’ to make sure it is genuine before parting with any money.

• Talk to trusted friends and family members or if it is an investment opportunity, a qualified financial expert. This may involve a fee but it could prevent you losing your life-savings.

• Don't get pressured into making a decision.

If a genuine person is offering you a bona-fide deal they will wait for you to check it out and often encourage you to do so before, Farrant says.

• Before paying any money remember it is unlikely you will get it back if it is a scam.

• If you are purchasing items online make use of systems such as PayPal.

• Check www.scamwatch.govt.nz for advice on how to protect yourself, receive scam alerts or to report a scam.

“You can prevent anyone else being a victim of a scam by reporting it straight away,” Farrant advises. “While you may not get your money back you may just prevent the scammer from getting hold of anyone else’s.”

If you or someone you know has been scammed report it to Police, Netsafe New Zealand www.netsafe.org.nz and Scamwatch www.scamwatch.govt.nz as soon as possible.

Information can also be provided anonymously by calling Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

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