Increase in scam phonecalls leads to police warning


SOUTHLANDERS are being asked to be wary of scammers who are trying to get people to disclose personal information and steal money.

New Zealand Police issued a warning last week about scammers who were skulking around again.

While scams were constantly circulating, there was an increase in complaints received about people receiving calls from someone claiming to be the Inland Revenue Department (IRD), attempting to obtain credit card information, bank details or passwords.

Aged Concern Southland manager Janette Turner said scammers, who say they are calling from the IRD or bank, could be very convincing and would often use intimidation tactics.

Scammers commonly played on emotional frailty and unfamiliarity with technology to trick people into believing they were doing the right thing.

Hard-sell tactics and pressure for a quick decision were a tell-tale sign something was not right. Another indicator of a scam could be the request to buy gift [prezzie] cards to be used as a payment method, she said.

“There’s quite a fear factor. And when they (the victim) get to the stage they are buying the cards, they feel like they’ve done something wrong.”

She said if people felt themselves starting to get drawn into a call and believing it, they needed to take a step back and think about what they were hearing.

“They then need to call somebody they trust and tell them what has happened to get them to help you work through it.

“Don’t feel silly about it because there is so much scamming out there.”

She said when people were in a heightened state, they did not think properly.

“The best thing is to say is ‘give me a name and number and I will ring you back in 10 minutes’.”

People should not be afraid to challenge the caller as legitimate callers are happy to be verified.

“Supermarkets are good at picking it [scams] up. If they see an older person buying a heap of prezzie cards, they will question why.”

Ms Turner encouraged members of the public, who may see an elderly person buying numerous prezzie cards, to speak up.

“People are really vulnerable at the moment because everybody is waiting. You just don’t know what is happening next.”

Social isolation combined with phone calls from scammers, made elderly people very vulnerable, she said.

A release issued by police last week says government agencies would never randomly contact a person or asking for bank information.

Random calls representing charities, government agencies or trying to sell products, should be treated with suspicion.

While calls often appear to be a New Zealand number, it was likely the call was being made from offshore.

“We urge people to have conversations with vulnerable or elderly family members to help ensure they are aware of the tactics often used by scammers.”