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Scams lose Kiwis big bucks

A new awareness week hopes to cut the numbers of New Zealanders falling prey to scams.

Charlotte Woodfield
Mon, 04 Apr 2011

Scammers cost New Zealanders nearly $450 million each year, according to Minister of Consumer Affairs John Boscawen.

The Minister today launched Scam Awareness Week 2011, an initiative aiming to raise awareness of scams in the community.

“According to research commissioned by the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, New Zealanders greatly underestimate the cost of scams.” Of the 1,000 people surveyed, 90% estimated New Zealanders lost less than $300 million in a year – well under the actual figure. The Ministry’s Scamwatch website ( receives around 3,500 reports annually. Some scam victims lose everything, including their home and savings.

Mr Boscawen said the cost to scam victims was very much emotional, not just financial.

The research also showed that most New Zealanders believe scams originate in Africa and Asia. Mr Boscawen said scammers could be based anywhere in the world.

“It’s incredibly easy for a scammer to set up a fake email address and then claim they are in London, or to phone and claim they’re in Sydney, when they’re actually somewhere else entirely.“

Scams that the Ministry has issued alerts on range from rental property scams, computer cold-calling scams and tax back scams.

 Following the Christchurch earthquake, several email scams aimed to exploit New Zealanders’ willingness to donate. One, claiming to be from “Donate4Charity NZ”, offered to give respondents “donated funds” in return for their bank details, and linked to the website of a legitimate UK-based charity.

Another said the earthquake had caused Kiwibank to lose their customers’ details, and requested they enter them at a (false) website.

Last April, Christchurch Hertz employee Jacqueline de Berri was sent to jail for more than two years after falling prey to a “Nigerian scam”. She was told by fax that a relative had died leaving an inheritance of over $US14.8 million (NZ$21.3 million). She sent $452,000 of company money in the hope of receiving the money.

 Mr Boscawen said scammers relied, and preyed upon human vulnerabilities. Money sent overseas was virtually impossible to recover.  “New Zealanders need to stay on their guard and remember the old message: if something seems too good to be true, then it probably is.”

Charlotte Woodfield
Mon, 04 Apr 2011
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Scams lose Kiwis big bucks