People, especially the elderly, continue to fall for telephone and computer scammers claiming to be from IRD, Spark and Police.

It always involves them having to buy vouchers or iTunes cards worth hundreds or thousands of dollars. All the scammers want is those card numbers.

Police are now asking people to be wary of a telephone scam in which the caller claims to work for NZ Police and Spark NZ. Ironically, the caller claims to be targeting internet fraud.

The victim is asked to purchase multiple iTunes cards at their own expense, and provide the numbers to the scam artist, who then redeems the gift cards and breaks contact with the victim, while maintaining remote access to the victim's computer.

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This is a variation on previous scams Police have seen, where the scammer claims to be from a widely recognised organisation to gain the victim's trust.

These scams run constantly and while most people will not buy into them, some people are more vulnerable.

Police urge people to have conversations with vulnerable or elderly family members, to ensure they are aware of the tactics used by scammers and don't become victims.

Business owners who note customers buying multiple gift cards of high monetary value should check they are not being pressured into purchasing such large amounts.
Do not engage with anyone suspicious on the phone. Hang up immediately and report the incident.

If you are in doubt about a caller's legitimacy, ask if you can call them back, or just hang up, Police advise.

Regardless of whether you have lost any money, if you have installed a programme allowing remote access to your computer, get help to ensure it is safely removed.

Anyone who believes they have been victim of a scam, whether in person, over the phone or online, should immediately report it to their bank, and local Police.

A vigilant sales person at Levin Warehouse Stationery helped prevent a disaster for one elderly Levin resident this week.

Alexander Kirk said on Facebook: "My colleague Josie and I had an elderly lady come in asking for $700 in iTunes gift cards. She seemed like she was very much under duress and very confused, but denied that she was being coerced.

"I explained to Josie (in front of the customer) that we report large purchases to our Support Office (and the Police if needed), and this lady's eyes grew wide but she maintained her composure.

"After she left, printed a second copy of her receipt and took her rego plate as she got in her car.

"On the way home, I spotted a Highway Patrol car on the side of the road. I pulled over, and proceeded to tell the Officer everything through the passenger window and handed him the receipt.

The policeman had gone the woman's house and on her dining table were $1700 worth of iTunes gift cards. She'd bought $1000 from Countdown earlier on, and the policeman found her computer was being controlled remotely. Her cell phone was on speakerphone on a long distance call, which had been going for 2.5 hours.

"This poor lady was being held hostage by some creeps overseas, who claimed that they were Spark and, in association with the NZ Police or some similar body, they required the help of the public to test local internet connectivity.

Kirk urged everyone to be vigilant and advised people working in retail that if someone comes in buying any more than a few hundred in gift cards, while not talking about who it's for even when asked, something isn't right.

Information on scams currently operating can be found on the Consumer Protection NZ website: www.consumerprotection.govt.nz/general-he…/scamwatch

Consumer Protection NZ, along with Netsafe, also provides helpful advice and information about keeping safe online.

Inland Revenue is advising customers to always use its secure online services to update bank details and avoid scammers who target Kiwi taxpayers.

Automatic tax refunds are coming this year and in the last month two email scams surfaced asking taxpayers to fill in a form to receive a refund.

IRD spokesperson Bernadette Newman says updated information is important but it should be done only through the department's secure online channel – myIR.

The best remedy for these calls is to thank them for alerting you to the problem and say you will ring your computer guy,your Spark account manager or the IRD so they can help you fix it, before you hang up.