Rotorua residents are losing their hard-earned cash to con-artists who are fleecing people through upfront payment scams.
Some people say scammers are approaching them via email, through the post, Facebook, Trade Me and even through phone calls. Some say they have scams offering lots of money sent to them daily and while many people say they can recognise a scam pretty easily, Rotorua police have received recent reports of people being duped and handing over cash to the scammers.
It has prompted Rotorua police to send a message to the public _ if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Known as upfront payment scams, they begin with victims receiving a message saying they are entitled to funds being held overseas and they need to part with a small amount of money to free up the funds.
Detective Senior Sergeant Zane Smith said the scams were being sent to people over the internet and through the post. He said no one should hand over money or personal details when approached in this way.
"Traditionally we have seen these scams associated to countries such as Nigeria but these recent ones appear to originate from Europe and the UK.
They are also not just via the internet; we have seen victims receiving personal letters through the mail,'' Mr Smith said.
The scams are sophisticated and convincing with official looking paper work and certificates often being provided to make the arrangement appear authentic.
"The reality is that if it sounds too good to be true it probably is. Under no circumstances should you part with any
money or any personal information or bank details when randomly approached in this way; nor should you underestimate the lengths that some criminals will go to make fraud convincing.''
Some scams suggest you are a prize-winner and say that to claim the prize you need to provide personal information or advanced fees. Some pull on the heart strings with a medical emergency you can help with.
Others still masquerade as trust worthy organisations, sometimes even using the logos of banks, financial institutions and companies to obtain sensitive information. This is known as phishing.
We asked our readers through our Facebook page if they had seen any scams. Feedback included many who said they knew a scam when they saw it.
One Rotorua woman, who lived with her elderly nan, said she believed scammers targeted old people. She said foreign people were often calling their house asking for money. She said the callers would keep ringing and would be quite aggressive.
One user said they receive phone calls from representatives of so-called chari ties they had donated to in the past.
"As soon as I get an email saying some stranger has left me money I just delete. But I am so sick of people ringing and telling me that I gave to their worthy cause once and now have a chance to help again. I just ask them when was the last time I gave them money. They can't answer so I just say goodbye and hang up. I'm so sick of trying to deal with people that don't speak proper English too.''
Another user said: "Someone hacked my email account a few months ago and changed my forwarding address and stopped saving the sent emails. My friends and family who received the frantic email from me saying I was in the Philippines knew straight away it was a hoax because they know I wouldn't want to go there!''
Another person told The Daily Post: "The worst scam was one on Facebook. Someone duplicated my friend's account and messaged all of her friends as if they were her, telling them in private messages to go to an email and that she had just been paid thousands. I didn't fall for the scam but it took me a few private messages to work out I wasn't talking to my friend. I felt quite betrayed by the scammer even though I didn't pay any money.''
Other comments include: "Just recently advertised my vehicle on Trade Me and the first response I got was from a
scammer. Lucky Trade Me alerted me to the fact, as I'm quite new to Trade Me. Some people out there must make a lot of dishonest money being full time internet scumbags.''
"I didn't fall for it but I got a letter [saying] I'd won the Canadian lottery three times in the post. All I had to do was send a $50 administration fee each time and I'd get the money. The ticket was very elaborate and the envelope was just as flash. Only trouble is I've never been to Canada and I don't gamble,'' another said.
To report a scam or to find out more about the different scams that exist and tips to protect yourself go to consumer affairs.govt.nz/scamwatch.
Tips to protect yourself from upfront payment schemes:
Spam is the generic term for `junk mail' messages via phones, letters or email that you haven't requested. Do not
respond to these unsolicited messages.
Never click `unsubscribe' on a spam email as it tells spammers that you read the mail and increases the risk of you becoming a repeat target. Just delete or throw away messages.
If you've parted with any money the only way the scam will stop is if you stop paying moment. It can seem convincing and can be tempting to see it through but there will be no money paid to you at the end no matter what the correspondence promises.
Never agree to transfer money to someone you do not know.
To report a scam or to find out more about the different scams that exist and tips to protect yourself from them go to