A man who lost $200k to a cold-calling investment scammer says he has been left hating himself and haunted by the mistake that has cost him the investment savings he built up after selling his business.
Greg* is one of three victims of fraud who have spoken about their situation as part of a film put together by the Serious Fraud Office and the Commission for Financial Capability for the International Fraud Film festival which is being held in Auckland this week.
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He was first approached last year when a man called him on the phone offering an investment opportunity. In New Zealand it is illegal to sell financial products on a cold call.
"I honestly felt it was really sound because of their convincing way they approached it."
Greg made two initial payments of around US$5k each - around $14k in New Zealand dollars.
Then they kept calling him urging him to invest more.
"I had already made quite a significant investment at this stage and felt a little trapped but still was thinking this was not beyond recovery.
"I could get something out of this. I was feeling annoyed that maybe I wasn't getting the answers but I felt entirely trapped at this particular stage."
Then Greg began to get worried.
"I don't know what it was I just had a gut feeling that something was wrong at that stage."
The requests for more money turned into threats.
"[They said:] If you do not make another investment we can not get this thing across the line for you, to fulfil the total investment package we put together with all our clients and we have only got two or three clients left to actually get across the line with their final payment so we can make this successive purchase."
He was told if he didn't make the final payment he would lose the lot.
"I said this is fraudulent, this is not right. It was the final phone call in late December prior to Christmas that I told them that they were scum - they were the pits of the earth.
"They had scammed me for my whole, what I put aside as investment for my future and this was the first time in eight months that any of them had actually hung up on me."
He hasn't heard from them since and by mid-2019 Greg says he realised he had been scammed for $200k.
"I was still irritated by this thing - I was having stressful nights - a real hate for myself, a disgusting view of myself and the way - how could I be the fool to fall for this?"
Greg believes his banks should have contacted him over the money transfer which all went overseas.
"I think I should have received something from the banks - if they looked at my history I had never transferred money offshore so why was I all of a sudden doing it?
"I'm the fool here or the fall guy but I felt like maybe I had been banking with these two banks all my life that I should have been given some advice from them as well."
He says if they had it may have helped him to avoid the scam that took place.
"I made the correct steps all the way through my life in the last 10 to 15 years to be able to build a business up and sell it and then I go and do something as silly as this and this was haunting me for months.
"I don't feel comfortable within my own skin and that has been a horrible thing to have to carry."
Greg says he hopes that by sharing his story it will help others. Last year New Zealanders lost at least $33 million to fraud but experts believe the actual amount is far higher than that.
Bronwyn Groot, fraud education manager at the Commission for Financial Capability, says the festival is an opportunity to expose how frauds are perpetrated and their impact on individuals and society.
"The free session brings the topic back to the individual, and how fraud affects people not only financially but also emotionally and psychologically," Groot said.
"Part of the problem is victims feeling too embarrassed to speak out, but the more we can bring fraud into public conversation the more we can place the blame where it belongs, on the offenders, and raise awareness of the risks to all New Zealanders."
The Scam Prevention Session, International Fraud Film Festival is being held at 10am on Thursday at the ASB Waterfront Theatre and is free to attend.
Those wanting to attend should email firstname.lastname@example.org to confirm seats. The public can also view the Fraud Hurts film online from midday Thursday here.
*Not his real name.
What to do if you have been scammed
• Contact your bank as soon as possible.
• Report it to the police and, if it is an online scam, report it to Netsafe who will give advice on what to do.
• Hang up on cold callers trying to sell you investment products.