Kielly Garrett, 34, and her husband had just bought a ute and were about to start their own business.
Having heard of a number of business start-up grants, Garrett hopped onto Google, searched for New Zealand Government grants and clicked the first link on the list.
She found a website with a helpful list of New Zealand business grants with branded video testimonials from New Zealanders who had been successfully helped by the scheme, and filled in some details to see what she was eligible for.
“Within 15 minutes they’d rung me, they sold me a dream.”
“She’s like you’ll need insurance’ and all these things I hadn’t even thought of and I was like ‘oh, you’re onto it!'”
According to the website Garrett had found – NZFundingGrants.org – Garrett was eligible for start-up financing of $10,000.
This is one of the more sophisicated frauds. They do have a fairly credible website and do indeed come up high in Google. I think they even do paid advertising (which Google should decline).
But a key giveaway here is the domain is .org not .nz. This means it is highly unlikely to be an official Government site as they tend to be in govt.nz. Also the fact they are not a .nz site may be significant as .nz sites have to publish the details of the site registrant, while .org do not.
So another check is to do a WHOIS on the domain name. The fact the registrant has hidden their details is a pretty good sign of a scam – especially when the site asks for money.
“They were telling me they’d take this admin fee and I said ‘oh yeah how much is that?’
“They said $350 and I was like oh yeah, that’s a bit steep but if you’re offering me $10,000, OK.”
Garrett started getting a sinking feeling as soon as she had submitted her debit card details – she immediately had second thoughts.
She checked online and discovered she was one of hundreds, possibly thousands, who had been scammed since 2013 by the so-called New Zealand Government Grants Department, New Zealand Small Business Assistance Centre, and two other incarnations centred around the domain names nzfundinggrants.org and nzgovernmentgrants.org.
“I just can’t believe it’s still running, I really can’t,” said Garrett.
“These are the things our government should be stopping, or find out where it’s coming from because these people are nasty people.”
Good she got suspicious. Not a lot the Government can do as the scammers are almost certainly not based in NZ.