Police are warning people to be wary of emails and letters after recent reports of people losing their hard-earned money to scammers.

Detective Senior Sergeant Zane Smith of Rotorua police said "up-front payment scams'' began with victims receiving a message that they were entitled to funds being held overseas and they need to part with a small amount of money to free up the funds.

"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 were sophisticated and convincing with official-looking paperwork 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.''

He said other scams suggesting people were prize-winners and to claim winnings they needed to provide personal information or advanced fees.

Some pulled on the heart strings with medical emergencies, others masqueraded as trustworthy organisations, sometimes using the logos of banks, financial institutions or companies to obtain sensitive information.

How to protect yourself from up-front payment scams:

- Never click `unsubscribe' on a spam email as it tells spammers that you read to mail and increases the risk of you becoming a repeat target. Just delete or throw away messages.

- 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 here.