March 31st, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Anna Leask at the Herald reports:

A pensioner scammed out of more than $140,000 by a woman he met on a legitimate dating site is ashamed and embarrassed that he was deceived for almost three years.

Police say he is one of thousands of Kiwis being sucked in, and today the man is sharing his story to prevent others being financially and emotionally destroyed.

The elderly man, who spoke to the Herald on the condition his name was not published, is one of an increasing number of people being tricked by romance scammers.

They prey on the emotional vulnerability of lonely or older people and police say they are making phenomenal amounts of money from New Zealand victims.

The man met his scammer after he signed up to a dating website. He said he was very lonely at the time and was desperate for companionship.

A woman who claimed she lived in a small town in West Africa made contact with him.

Sadly that should have been the first danger sign.

As she and the victim became closer, she suggested travelling to meet him in New Zealand. He was thrilled, and although he was hesitant when she asked for money to renew her passport and for flights, he was assured she was genuine because of their “natural” conversations.

Best in that case to pay for the tickets directly. Never ever send cash.

But each time she purportedly set off for New Zealand, something went wrong. She told the man of visa and passport issues and being detained for trying to travel with a large number of gold bars without an export licence. Each time, she needed more cash to get her out of trouble.

That’s a pretty big warning sign. I don’t know anyone who tries to travel with gold bars!

She never came to New Zealand, but kept in constant contact with the victim. He was soon sending her money for her daughter’s school fees, uniform and swimming lessons.

He paid for a new laptop for his “friend” and was sending regular amounts to “maintain her”.

The woman also conned him out of $1000 each week, supposedly to pay a security company to store her gold bars, which she said were worth more than US$28,000 ($32,320).

Gold is around US$1,300 an ounce so that’s around 21.5 ounces or 600 grams of gold. That’s not gold bars. That’s a small slice.

There were times when he questioned the woman or suspected a scam, but each time she would come up with a plausible explanation.

The requests for cash would stop for a time, but as soon as she had his trust again, she would slowly convince him to keep making deposits.

He made the deposits through money-transfer companies, and when he was turned away from one because it was concerned about how often he was sending cash to Africa, he found another service.

Okay now that’s beyond stupid. It’s one thing to be gullible, but another to ignore the fact that even the money transfer company is telling you it is a scam.

Police were alerted to his frequent money transfers and went to see him.

At first, he did not believe what they were telling him. He went online to confront the woman, and she “explained it all”.

After several days going back and forth with the Auckland city fraud squad, he finally realised he had been duped.

Good on the Police for being pro-active, but really sad they had to intervene.


Surely we are not that dumb

November 2nd, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Police are warning against “too good to be true” overseas scams aimed at tricking New Zealanders out of millions of dollars.

Detective Senior Sergeant Aaron Pascoe said a recent survey of money-remittance agencies suggested New Zealanders were sending more than $100 million a year to “high risk” countries such as Nigeria, Ghana and the Ukraine.

“How much of this is fraudulently obtained or laundered funds is unclear but the figure is likely to be in the tens of millions, given the low rate of reporting of this type of occurrence,” he said.

One person had recently reported a fraud, where he paid $17,000 to “release” supposed lottery winnings.

Pascoe said that by working with remittance agencies police identified nine other victims, and found that a further $250,000 had been sent overseas to the same scammers.

How can people still be falling for those? I can understand it ten years ago when they were new, but surely everyone has heard of the scams by now.

I guess a new one is born every day after all!


International dress scams

May 13th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Steve and Rasha Taylor run a small bridal & designer dress studio in Upper Hutt. They’ve written an article on buying dresses online, as more and more Kiwis are doing this. It works out good for some, but for others has ended in tears. Their article is here.

  • Lesson #1: An online dresses website can be run from anywhere in the world.  An online dresses website may pretend or appear to be a local business in you own country.  As a guide, Google search the website or associated websites you are browsing with the word “scam” and see what comes up.  Don’t be surprised when your package arrives direct from China.   BE PREPARED FOR EXTRA CUSTOMS DUTIES & TAXES – even if it claims “free shipping”.
  • Lesson #2:  Anyone can use Google advertising.  Don’t assume that a lot of advertising means the site is trustworthy.  Don’t simply assume the order that online dresses websites appear on your Google search ranking means the websites at the top are trustworthy.
  • Lesson #3:  An elaborate refund policy does not authenticate an online dresses website.  If a site uses Paypal, this does not automatically mean it is trustworthy.  When you pay with a credit card, always keep an eye on your bank statement.  Make sure you know how much you are really paying.
  • Lesson #4:  A fancy graphic with many payment options & trust verifications does not make an online dresses website legitimate.  If a trust verification logo such as DigiCert or Trustwave does not open, be very concerned.
  • Lesson #5: Stunning professional looking photos with watermarks do not add legitimacy to an online dresses website.
  • Lesson #6:  Don’t expect the dress to look like the photo.  Seriously – don’t get your hopes up.
  • Lesson #7:  Budget a LOT more money for alterations & back up options, because your cheap online dress is not likely to fit.  Be mentally prepared in advance that it may be so bad you might have to just bin it.  If you strike it lucky and get a great dress, good for you.  If you bought a fake, don’t insult hard working designers by asking them to fix it.
  • Lesson #8:  Take the on-site reviews and dubious blog entries as an unverified opinion only.  Be wary of the practices used by online dress scams and knock off merchants in manipulating reviews and feedback.
  • Lesson #9:  Understand how drop shipping works.   Make sure the seller has a method of contact. Always read the terms and conditions to be sure of the process when purchasing online dresses.
  • Lesson #10:  Don’t think you are immune.  Wise up and make an informed purchase. For such an important purchase, check out your local retailers to!  If you get scammed or ripped off by a company selling online dresses, for goodness sake TELL PEOPLE!

The Today programme had a feature on these scams.


Lessons for online dating

January 6th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Bevan Hurley at HoS reports:

A lonely Kiwi widower who was scammed out of $1 million by an Australian online dating service is living a retirement in virtual poverty.

Retired Taranaki Regional Council finance manager Alan Young had just lost his wife of 29 years to cancer when he answered an advertisement in a Taranaki newspaper for introductions service True Love Corps.

It cost Young his $500,000 house and life savings after he fell for a con artist he thought was his fiancee.

He now lives a “limited” life on a modest pension in a small town on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. He retired with no savings.

Australian courts ordered the dating company directors to repay money, but they are bankrupt and Young may never see the cash.

“It’s changed our whole lives,” said Young’s daughter Jo. “All of his shares and his life savings and house (are gone) and he came to live with me.

“My mum had cancer. She had just died and they took someone who was really vulnerable.”

The con artists are despicable scum. The should go to jail.

But also vulnerability and love, are not reasons to avoid common sense.

Court papers show Young signed up in 2006 and spent $10,000 upgrading his status with the service.

First warning sign. No dating service should cost that much.

She used family illness or disputes as excuses for not meeting him in Melbourne

Be sceptical if they proven difficult to meet in person.

but she accepted his marriage proposal in January 2007.

Don’t propose marriage to someone you have not met.

In 2007, he spent more than $400,000 providing “assistance” to Jovic, including borrowing $120,000 from his mother, who died the same year.

Never ever ever start providing money to people you have never met, unless it is trivial amounts. This one is the big neon flashing warning.

When Young flew to the Gold Coast, he found Jovic’s appearance and personality were different. She said it was due to the stress of a family dispute.

I’m staggered at this point, bells do not ring. Warning Sign 5.

In 2008, Jovic met Young in New Zealand but insisted on separate bedrooms as she had “promised my dear departed mother that I would not have sex until I married you”.

Warning Sign 6. No putting out.

They were to marry in 2008 in Brisbane but when he got there, he was told she had gone to Melbourne to see her lawyer.

Young flew to Melbourne where he got another phone call from Jovic, telling him she was flying to the United States where her daughter had been in a car accident.

Warning Sign 2 repeats itself.

Young contacted True Love Corp and recognised the woman who answered the phone as Angie Jovic, though the person identified herself as Hollie Veall, a director of True Love Corps.

Thankfully, he finally wised up. He is the victim and they are scum. However common sense should have warned him earlier. This does not like like a very sophisticated sting.

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Not elaborate

February 28th, 2012 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Keith Lynch at The Press reports:

A Christchurch woman was conned out of more than $23,000 in an elaborate online scheme.

The 50-year-old woman, who does not want to be named, met a man through Facebook, spoke to him for about three months online and over the phone, and paid him more than $23,000 after being taken in last month by a hoax story.

The internet conman asked her for the money to get a package out of Australian Customs.

He even sent her a tracking number and the address of a website where she could track the “package” which she was told contained gold nuggets and jewellery.

The woman spoke out to warn others of the dangers online.

“I thought he was reasonably decent person but you can’t really tell,” she said.

“He gained my trust and we even talked about people on Facebook who scam people.”

Before asking for money, the man told her he was travelling to New Zealand and wanted her to accept a package on his behalf.

He sent her a link to a website with a tracking number to monitor the package. But when the package got to Australia it got held up “because they wanted a money laundering certificate”, she said.

“He pleaded, he actually cried on the phone. He got me sucked in. I felt really bad for him.

“He told me he’d pay me back and it would be fine.”

She then sent him about $17,500.

After the man said he needed more help, she sent him another $6000.

This was not an elaborate scam. With no disrespect to the unfortunate victim, but it was a very simple scam. If you have never met the person in real life, then don’t send them thousands of dollars. Don’t even send them hundreds of dollars.



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.


The Wellington scammer

November 9th, 2010 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Dom Post reports:

A phone scammer targeted Wellington residents last night, the second incident in two weeks.

Police said they received about 40 phone calls last night from people who had a phone call from a bogus Microsoft employee.

Last night’s incident follows about 50 calls to Wellington, Hutt Valley and Kapiti residents last Wednesday and Thursday, reporting a similar experience.

The caller claims to work for Microsoft and offers assistance to help get rid of a virus by disclosing computer passwords.

Police warn anyone who receives a call of this nature to hang up immediately.

If the calls are being made from within New Zealand, surely the Police can easily ascertain the phone line they are being made from, and take action?


Grrr #2

October 22nd, 2010 at 4:07 pm by David Farrar

My home phone goes off at 1230 am this morning. I stumble out of bed and answer it as it will either be something really important or the drunk Hungarian girl who called from Strasbourg earlier that day.

It is neither. It is someone called Rev Jones calling about my e-mail. He does not have great English and I am half asleep so it takes me a while to comprehend. I don’t know what e-mail he is talking about, and say so. He repeats his name and I say I really don’t recall an e-mail and anyway it is past midnight so can this wait until tomorrow.

He remains insistent, and finally he says something about the $5  million money transfer. It slowly dawns on me he is a (probably) Nigerian scamster. Hell – I didn’t know they were now calling random people to try and con them.

I politely but firmly tell him that I have never e-mailed him and that he is either mistaken or someone else contacted him. I tell him I am going to hang up now and being unfailingly polite I even say I regret if there has been any confusion.

Ten minutes later the phone rings again. I ignore it. He phones back ten more times over the next half hour. Finally I go stick the fax machine in, hoping a loud buzzing will drive him off. Sadly, the fax is too smart for my own good and won’t pick up on a phone call. So instead I just take the phone off the hook.

Around half an hour later – close to 1.30 am now, and my mobile phone goes. I reach over for the phone (which I keep next to the bed in case Andrew Williams is texting) and I see the number is an international one, starting with +234.

I ponder briefly. It might be the Hungarian girl. She did call on my cellphone. But the timing is suspicious so I turn my cellphone off. I check on the iPad what country +234 is from, and what a surprise – it is Nigeria.

So far, he has not called back again. If he does I will just transfer him to the talking clock or something.

I feel a bit sorry for the little old ladies who fall for these scams. This guy was very very persistent. I also slightly regret that I did not try and have some fun with him – such as ask him to send me a photo of him holding up a sign saying “Nigeria is sad that Chris Carter is yet to visit us”. If the call had been during the day I might have been quick enough.

But I also reflect that someone out there must have forged an e-mail from me to this guy, giving him my home phone and mobile phone numbers. Unless it was one of my mates, this irritates me somewhat.

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The NBR Veuve Clicquot competition

August 25th, 2010 at 6:46 am by David Farrar

I am annoyed with the National Business Review. In fact more than annoyed – I am angry.

Readers will have seen my links to their 40th birthday competition. People had the chance to win their weight in Veuve Clicquot and the competition was promoted on the basis of popular vote. Many bloggers got in behind Busted Blonde’s entry and she won the popular vote.

After the published deadline had passed, NBR announced that the popular vote winner would not win the competition (which was strongly implied), but that the top ten most popular would go into a pool, and judges would then select their favourite of the top ten.

NBR has the legal right to change the terms and conditions. This is not a debate about legality. They said the winner would be announced within seven hours of the vote closing. They changed this in the final hours to announcing it a week later, allowing judges to decide on someone other than the popular vote winner.

I deplore what NBR has done. They have acted unethically. If they had made clear at the very beginning that the popular vote winner would not count for anything, and all you had to do was be in the top ten – then I (and others) would have acted very differently. They basically conned bloggers and other social media users into promoting their contest for them under false pretences.

Quite a few people are upset about this. I’ll link to some of these in a second. Some are calling for boycotts of NBR, cancelled subscriptions etc. I’m not going to go down that path. I doubt NBR cares too much about losing my potential subscription (especially as they kindly provide me with a complimentary copy anyway).

My message to the National Business Review is that you have lost something infinitely more valuable than my subscription. You have lost both my respect and my trust. That is hard to do, and even harder to undo.

Both NBR and Veuve Clicquot  are suffering brand damage from this. Already blog posts are climbing up the ladder in Google page ranks. And it has spread over Twitter, with one of the world’s most famous wine critics contacting Busted Blonde wanting details of what has happened.

Posts on this saga are:

As I said, I am angry. Not about the fact Busted Blonde did not win. I am angry that I was effectively conned into promoting their competition under false pretences. Now people may say, it is your own fault. They never stated explicitly that the popular vote winner would win – it was only strongly implied. And you are right – it is partly my own fault. I trusted National Business Review to act honourably. I was wrong, and have learnt a lesson.

UPDATE: I note that on Google NZ, a search for “Veuve Clicquot” already has this post higher ranked that the actual NBR competition.

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Stupid bastard

July 23rd, 2010 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Dom Post reports:

A Carterton pensioner is facing jail time after stealing cash from a charitable organisation to feed Nigerian scammers.

David Patrick Mullany, 68, who was treasurer-secretary of the Wairarapa A&P Society, admits he siphoned money after being caught up in three Nigerian internet scams.

Mullany pleaded guilty in Masterton District Court yesterday to stealing $48,356 from the society over three years to pay people in London and Nigeria, believing he was in line to receive more than $46 million.

I’m really amazed that people still fall for such scams. Even if you have not heard of Nigerian scams specifically, how about the old maxim that if it is too good to be true, it isn’t.

The number of stupid/gullible people out there sometimes makes me wonder whether being a criminal fraudster isn’t a logical career choice :-)


Postal Spam

July 21st, 2010 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Just received a very rare postal spam letter from France.

I was curious as to who in France would be writing to me, and opened it to find it was the usual spam con, offering 90% of $3.5 million as next of kin, if I will only donate 10% of the legacy to some charities.

The con artist is actually in Spain – a Laura Fernando Diaz is their claimed name.

What surprises me is that they are doing it by post. It must cost a fair bit to send letters from Europe to NZ. E-mail spam costs nothign to send, but mail does.

However if they send out 100,000 letters and even one person is stupid enough to believe it, they will make money.

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