Gullibility

January 31st, 2011 at 8:04 am by David Farrar

The Southland Times reports:

A Southland woman has been swindled out of $32,000 after falling prey to an India-based scam.

The woman, who did not want to be named, said she had been left embarrassed, furious and felt betrayed after finally realising what she believed was a tax refund was nothing more than trickery.

It began early this month with a phone call telling her she had overpaid tax, but to get it she needed to transfer money to an account through the Western Credit Union.

The man who called sounded convincing and said he was from the Justice Department, she said. “I had no reason to be suspicious.”

One should be suspicious on four fronts -

  1. You would never to have to make a payment to get a tax refund
  2. IRD, not Justice do tax
  3. Any tax refund would be notified in writing
  4. Any involvement with Western Union means the funds are going offshore

The first payment was for $290, gradually increasing, with the pot at the end of the rainbow also increasing to a $71,000 refund.

Twenty payments were made to the scammers with all the money going overseas to India, the woman said.

I can sympathise with maybe a one off payment of $290 as being a normal level of gullibility. But for God’s sake what is wrong that you don’t twig on after 20 payments totalling $32,000.

Three different people had called her saying they were from the Reserve Bank and a “government department”.

That would get me more suspicious, not less.

It took the woman’s children to rouse suspicion which led to the end of the scam.

Her daughter overheard her on the phone to one of the scammers and asked what she was making the payments for.

They contacted the Reserve Bank which said it was a scam and to stop the payments.

It even got to the point that one of her daughters invoked power of attorney, cancelling her mother’s credit cards and withdrawing funds leaving just enough so she could buy groceries.

“Which was a horribly difficult thing to do. I’ve had sleepless nights over this whole thing,” the daughter said.

One can only feel sorry for the woman concerned, and thank goodness for her family who stopped it getting worse. But really, all one has to do is ask a family member of friend for advice in situations like these.

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21 Responses to “Gullibility”

  1. Mr Robert Black (145 comments) says:

    They don’t get out much in Tuatapere.

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  2. themono (132 comments) says:

    To be fair, if her daughter has power of attorney, I would guess that the woman is probably reasonably elderly and frail.

    Of course, I may be very wrong.

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  3. Adolf Fiinkensein (2,831 comments) says:

    Yes, it appears very likely that she was suffering from dementia – or at least a mild form of it.

    I wonder if the trading banks could put in a flag for any series of transactions like this?

    Recently, I transferred Australian$400.00 to a motel’s account in Adelaide – deposit on a four week booking for a furnished apartment.

    To my surprise, I received a phone call from my bank the next day, enquiring as to the bona fides of the transaction. A flag had come up in their system because this was the first transaction to the particular account number. They had held up the transfer pending confirmation it was legitimate. I congratulated the feller who phoned on the bank’s intelligent and constructive intervention.

    What a pity someone had not done the same thing when this poor vulnerable lady got to say the fifth transaction!!!

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  4. Gooner (995 comments) says:

    This is entirely the fault of the deregulation and neo-liberal reforms of the 1980s. If Telecom wasn’t sold that Indian fellow from offshore would not have been able to phone in like that.

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  5. Mr Robert Black (145 comments) says:

    Actually, one of my best mates at uni was from Tuatapere.

    He was a mean, loud assed rugby prop.

    His nickname was Hoot.

    We were both at Selwyn.

    I wonder if anyone else remembers him?

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  6. peterwn (3,213 comments) says:

    And people sho should know better get caught. Several years ago a greedy lawyer lent $250k from an estate for a Nigerian scam in return for a cut of the millions promised. He got a mortgage from one of the others to cover it – but the courts effectively said he had to pay it back himself.

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  7. davidp (3,557 comments) says:

    Gooner>If Telecom wasn’t sold that Indian fellow from offshore would not have been able to phone in like that.

    Too true. If Telecom were still a branch of the Post Office and run as a government department then the long distance call would have had to have been set up by an operator. The operator would have been suspicious of the foreign accent and questioned him to determine the reasons for the call, and might have monitored the ensuing conversation.

    I blame Phil Goff and Helen Clark for leaving old women vulnerable in their ill though out privatisation.

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  8. BeaB (2,082 comments) says:

    No protection against greed and stupidity.

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  9. Viking2 (11,275 comments) says:

    Oh yes and I see that Vodaphone’s NZ call centre in Egypt has a few problems. That is more than usual.

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  10. side show bob (3,660 comments) says:

    This woman obviously has talents suitable for higher office. Quick Goofy sign her up for the next election. She should slot in well on the Liarbore front bench, she has that unique socialist talent, wasting good loot and wasting more for the hell of it.

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  11. s.russell (1,580 comments) says:

    There really is a woeful level of financial literacy in New Zealand. Stories like this are far too common. And then there are the legal scams: putting all of your life savings into one finance company, or into one Auckland apartment, and of course the one where people receive an offer for their shares in the mail and jump at the chance to sell them for 3/4 of their actual listed price. The list goes on…

    I think we need to brush up on financial education in schools: we’ve got to stop sending people out into the world who cant grasp the most fundamental financial concepts like risk and return.

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  12. Kimble (4,410 comments) says:

    “Oh yes and I see that Vodaphone’s NZ call centre in Egypt has a few problems. That is more than usual.”

    Extrausual? Superusual?

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  13. PaulL (5,983 comments) says:

    I think some of these scams work on the logic of hooking people with a small amount of money, and then increasing the amounts required. People don’t like to admit they’ve screwed up, so they keep handing over money hoping that when the refund finally comes, they’ll make it all back. Good money after bad, as the saying goes. They’re quite cunning that way.

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  14. Kimble (4,410 comments) says:

    “I think we need to brush up on financial education in schools:”

    Yes, and we must ensure that this change in education happens 70 years ago when it would have applied to the person in question.

    I think it is unlikley that young people with their twitters, and their facebooks, would get sucked into such a transparantly fraudulent scheme. I mean, how many spam emails would the average 14 year old get nowadays? You cant tell me that doesnt innoculate them to some extent?

    When you hear about stupid stories like this it is almost always old people falling for it. Even the lawyers and accountants that lose money to the Nigerians are old. The few young people affected by it typically dropped out of school anyway, so any expenditure on educating kids against this in school would be an entirely wasted effort.

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  15. gravedodger (1,528 comments) says:

    WTF has the ownership of Telecom got to do with it. Scammers were around when the pony express was the favored communication system. And they could get more marks before the news got out.
    I can remember when a months wait for a phone connection was the norm and the warehouses of overordered redundant stocks were discovered so don’t lament the passing of that government trading disaster pulease.

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  16. Gooner (995 comments) says:

    I was playing devil’s advocate, or rather, I was playing Philu.

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  17. Put it away (2,888 comments) says:

    I can’t have much sympathy for this idiot unless they’re suffering Alzheimers or similar, or maybe just an old woman from a bygone age where the husband took care of all the finances, the husband has now gone and the woman is left completely clueless about how to function in the world.

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  18. Bob R (1,357 comments) says:

    This reminds me of a chapter in Robert Cialdini’s book ‘Influence’. People will go along with ridiculous requests if they believe it’s coming from someone in proper authority. I remember there was a NZ lawyer who got quite badly sucked in by some nigerian scammers a few years ago.

    The scam baiter websites are doing an important social service going after these leeches.

    http://www.419eater.com/

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  19. backster (2,123 comments) says:

    I wouldn’t be too hard on this woman. The boss of Vector recently commented that hundreds of shareholders took up the recent fraudulent offer of the scamster Wimp to buy their shares at a fraction of the market price netting him hundreds of thousand dollars.

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  20. MT_Tinman (3,044 comments) says:

    They’ll still allow her to vote though.

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  21. KiwiGreg (3,218 comments) says:

    A fool and his money are soon parted. The big question is how did they get together in the first place?

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