A retired Whanganui woman ended up handing over $4000 after falling into the trap of a scam masked as a call from Spark.

Neighbourhood Watch support officer Sumita Dale said she was approached by the woman about an entirely different issue when she mentioned the trouble she'd had being caught in a scam.

She said the woman was embarrassed about what had happened to her.

"They called her up and in this particular situation said to her that she had had some money taken out of her account via internet banking," Dale said.

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"So in order to try and help her recover that money, they had said we'll put some money back into your account and we would then like you to use that money to make a payment to this account overseas which will then allow us to trace where your money has gone.

"She thought she was doing the right thing in doing the transfer to try and get back the money that had been taken from her in the first place."

The woman has accepted the $4000 won't be coming back to her and Dale said she was surprised how invasive the scam had got.

"This was a person who really had a lot of her wits about her. These scams are happening in such a way they are so convincing they are making it their job to go out there to scam people. They are very convincing when they do it - it can happen to anyone.

"The stories that they tell and the way that they tell it are so convincing that people are sucked in and they genuinely do believe what they've been told and then they act on what they've been told which is the big concern I think."

Sumita Dale said the woman was someone who had her wits about her and seemed unlikely to fall for a scam - showing that it can happen to anyone. Photo / Bevan Conley.
Sumita Dale said the woman was someone who had her wits about her and seemed unlikely to fall for a scam - showing that it can happen to anyone. Photo / Bevan Conley.

Dale said alarm bells started to ring when the scammers told the woman not to talk to anyone about what was happening and to then buy $2000 of iTunes vouchers.

She went to The Warehouse to make the purchase but staff questioned her about her purchase.

"She started thinking 'this isn't quite right'. But she had been told she wasn't to talk to anyone about it and so had kept it to herself the whole time, causing her a lot of stress and anxiety as she was dealing with it by herself.

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"It wasn't until she came to see me for a completely unrelated matter that she's opened up and said look this is what's been going on."

The Warehouse staff convinced her to spend $2000 on Warehouse vouchers instead so they could be refunded in the case of it being a scam. They have now been refunded back to the woman.

Computer expert and director at Technoman in Wanganui East, Francois (Swace) Izatt's advice was to contact the police, the bank or an IT company like his if someone was caught in a scam.

"The easiest thing to do is just to shut [the computer] down and bring it to a company like ourselves or another local IT company.

"First and foremost a lot of companies won't call you. Spark will never actually call you unless you've requested a phone call.

"The same goes for Microsoft. Unless you have specifically asked for a call back you won't get a phone call. So if you look out for things like that then that's kind of a dead giveaway. Especially if it's a random call telling you there's something wrong with your computer.

"Or that something's happened to one of your bank accounts and it's not from the bank - then don't. Just either hang up the phone call or say 'listen I'm phoning the police' and then hang up the phone call. Those usually kind of stop them in their tracks."

He said it was very important not to let scammers access your computer from a remote location.

His company had dealt with a few serious cases in the last few years in Whanganui - including one person last year who lost $14,000 to a scam.

"It was a similar thing - it was during the Spark rounds. It's almost yearly now. You get a phone call from Spark saying 'hey we've noticed there's something wrong with your computer'.

"This particular customer got done quite bad. Unfortunately she saved all of her passwords on her browser."

Izatt said to never leave bank or credit card passwords saved on your computer browser.