Scammers almost swipe $12,000 from Motueka woman

Shirley McGuire, co-owner of green world health and Lifestyle in Motueka, was approached by a telephone scammer claiming ...
MARTIN DE RUYTER

Shirley McGuire, co-owner of green world health and Lifestyle in Motueka, was approached by a telephone scammer claiming to be from Spark.

A Motueka business owner has been left feeling violated after a phone scammer nearly got away with $12,000 of her and her husband's life savings.

This follows a warning from police last week after three elderly residents in the Tasman district were scammed out of $120,000 through phone scams.

Shirley McGuire said she wanted to warn others not to unwittingly "open the door" to those who called and pretended to be from legitimate companies.

"They use trusted names," McGuire said after a person claiming to work for Spark called her green world health & Lifestyle store on Wednesday, under the guise of addressing a faulty modem.

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"He introduced himself by name and he said they'd been monitoring the modem and it hadn't been working properly."

McGuire said she and her husband, Mike, had just bought a new Spark modem and had been having difficulties with internet dropping in and out, so the call seemed legitimate.

The man used the "right technical language" which made her even more assured that he was legitimate.

He told her a technician would come and replace some equipment the next day, and even gave a false name, Spark staff ID number, and appointment time.

The phone scammer ran a diagnostic through the computer after McGuire had given him remote access through Teamviewer software. It seemed to fix errors and alerts,

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"Other professionals who have come and done work on my computer have used Teamviewer so I didn't think anything of that," she said.

The man told her the computer and router were faulty and she was owed $900 by Spark, and he would transfer the money into her bank account as "they weren't allowed to use cheques".

He then told her to log into her internet banking to check the money had gone in.

Because the Teamviewer software was still running, the scammer was able to access to her account, but McGuire said she hadn't put two-and-two together.

"The computer screen kept going black and I said: 'what's happening'? and he said" 'don't worry ma'am, we're giving you $900 and I'm just trying to put it into your account'." 

When $9000 appeared in the account both McGuire and her husband became suspicious.

She said the man tried to assure her it had been a mistake and they needed to give him back the money or he'd lose his job, but her husband didn't buy it.

The couple hung up the call, rang their bank, and got the ANZ account closed just in time.

"What we didn't realise is [the scammers] had just transferred the $9000 from our credit account," she said.

ANZ closed the account just minutes before the scammers completed a $12,000 withdrawal.

McGuire said it had been an emotional couple of days and she kept feeling distraught that she'd nearly lost them so much money.

"You think you're an intelligent person and that you're doing the right thing [in co-operating with the caller]," she said.

"I just keep thinking about my responsibility in it. It really does affect you because you think 'I opened the door that let them in ...'"

She didn't want to go through life suspecting people but felt it was important to be aware of the dangers of these kinds of scams.  

McGuire said if people were cold-called they should ask the caller for a phone number and offer to call them back.

If the caller was legitimate they'd be able to give a local number that could be verified.

Police told her that a lot of people had been hit in Motueka, and many people had lost a lot of money in similar scams.

McGuire said they were pleased the bank moved so quickly and prevented them from losing their savings.

ANZ spokesperson Stefan Herrick said there had been three reported scam attempts in Motueka and Richmond in the space of two hours on Wednesday afternoon, and there may have been more they weren't aware of.

New Zealand Bankers' Association (NZBA) spokesperson Philip van Dyk said these scams were not an uncommon occurrence.

"These scams are happening all the time regrettably, and the main thing we're asking people to do is be vigilant and take care," van Dyk said.

"The horrible thing is fraudsters are always looking for new ways to trick people into providing confidential information which allows them to access bank accounts."

NZBA advises people to never give out confidential information such as PIN numbers or bank account usernames.

It's also issued a reminder that utility companies, such as telcos, will never transfer you to your bank or ask for access to your bank account. 

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 - Stuff

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