$600,000 lost to scammers

Timaru police are urging caution after two local people lost a total of nearly $600,000 in life savings to international scammers.

Timaru CIB Detective Sergeant Dylan Murray said that during the last year he had heard six sad tales of financial loss.

"Each person I have spoken to has been the victim of an international scam of one kind or another.

"One victim lost $300,000 and another lost between $250,000 and $300,000. They have been referred to victim support but there is little that can be done to recover the money."

The scammers had contacted one victim via the internet and another had advertised on a radio network.

"They [scammers] will spend a little bit of money on ads to make it look as legitimate as possible in the hope of a big pay day."

"Often these scammers are forming strong emotional bonds with their victims, to the point that often victims will not believe they are a victim even when people in authority alert them to what's going on," Murray said.

"Scammers particularly like targeting the elderly for their nest-eggs, or other people of all ages who are emotionally vulnerable for whatever reason."

He urged people to be vigilant.

"Unfortunately any investigation is likely to be fruitless, both in recovering funds and prosecuting any offender."

Murray said there are common forms of fraud that affect New Zealanders.

The advance fee fraud is the classic Nigerian scam where the victim is contacted by email and pays up front for something that never arrives.

The prime bank instrument fraud involves people being invited to take part in a secret market, who are offered prime bank notes or debentures supposedly paying high returns. This market does not exist. Money sent to these schemes is lost.

The affinity fraud occurs when fraudsters prey on people who trust each other, such as members of religious, social, or cultural groups. They use the trust to help steal money.

In Ponzi schemes, money from new investors is used to pay interest to earlier investors to give the illusion the investment is successful.

The Timaru Herald