Possible Rena scam artist

By Michele Hunter

The suspicion a crook might be scamming people over Rena has forced a wildlife organisation to suspend a key fundraising campaign in the Western Bay.

Three Western Bay residents were phoned this week and asked if they wanted to make a donation to the Rena wildlife rescue operation. One woman was told it would "cost a lot of money to save the birds".

But it remains unclear if the calls were from a scam artist or someone calling on behalf of Forest and Bird, which is in the middle of raising money for its shorebird dotterel protection project.

Forest and Bird general manager Mike Britton said he was concerned if a scam artist was using the organisation's name to get money from locals. The organisation had stopped calling people in the Western Bay about the shorebird protection programme to avoid confusion.

One woman from Omanawa answered a phone call about 7.15pm on Wednesday, from a woman who spoke garbled English.

"She was a Kiwi, not from overseas but there was something about the way she spoke that wasn't right.

She kind of garbled about it and wasn't sure of her words. If you're genuine then you should know what you're talking about but she kept repeating that it was going to cost a lot to save the birds."

The Omanawa woman said the person on the other end of the phone asked for her credit card number to donate directly, or the money could be taken off her phone bill, via an 0900 number.

Mr Britton said the organisation's fundraisers had been calling people in the Western Bay seeking donations. He said it was possible the people who phoned these residents were members of Forest and Bird and were "caught up" in the Rena situation and potentially confused Western Bay residents. "We definitely don't take credit card details but we do get them to call back on the 0900 number so make sure everything is secure."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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