International scams prompt police warning

One of the scams police are investigating involves victims being targeted through an online dating websites.

One of the scams police are investigating involves victims being targeted through an online dating websites.

The public is being warned about international scams as police investigate a number of serious fraud complaints involving offshore accounts.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars are ending up in the hands of unscrupulous scammers.  

Investigations involve an investment scam where victims are called from Hong Kong or China by an unknown person and are offered the opportunity to purchase shares.

These are often short term investments in well-known companies offering large returns.

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Another scam is a romance scam, where the victim has met someone through an online dating website and has unwittingly transferred stolen funds into offshore bank accounts.

In both instances the offenders are from overseas and continue to pressure victims into transferring larger amounts of money at short notice once they have received the first payment of money.

Police said these scams were sophisticated and could take place over several months and were being carried out in Wellington and the North Island.

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Constable Ross Barnett of the Wellington area criminal investigations branch said if people receive offers like these they should either hang up or seek expert advice before any money changes hands.

"I would like to remind the public to exercise extreme caution when buying shares overseas, transferring money on other people's behalf and giving money to any one they have not met in person".

Despite a global policing to clamp down on scammers, the best line of defence was for people not to become victims, he said.

Other current scams advise people they have won an overseas lottery and require money to receive the prize, some pretend to be a legitimate businesses but put the money in a different bank account and others pretend to be a law enforcement agency and demand money for illegal material that has been downloaded onto the victims computer.

Netsafe operations manager Lee Chisholm said investment and romance scams are reasonably common and of all the incidents reported to Netsafe, these two types of scams have caused the most money to be lost by victims.

Investment scams typically involve a cold-caller offering really good returns on an investment.

Chisholm said any cold call should be treated immediately with suspicion and look out for anything that sounds too good to be true.

"People have to do their due diligence and work out whether this is a legitimate investment or not. If they're cold-called, I would say it's not legitimate."

Romance scams play on people's emotions and in the case of the particular scam described by the police, the victim could be liable under money laundering laws. 

Chisholm said scammers are clever and anyone could fall victim.

For more advice and reporting on cybercrime contact your local Police Station, , or information can be provided anonymously via Crimestoppers 0800 555 111.


 - Stuff


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