North Shore beautician's horror as $30,000 drained from bank account by scammers posing as Westpac workers

A North Shore woman had just 3c in her bank account before Christmas after scammers convinced her they were working for Westpac bank.

The thieves took $30,000, leaving her unable to pay staff or bills. 

Police warn there are a lot more scams out there this summer and the culprits are more clever.

After a year of hard yakka, all North Shore beautician Maria wanted for Christmas was a break - but what she got instead was a phone call that would spoil her summer.

"[It was] someone claiming to be on the Westpac fraud team, saying, has there been some suspicious activity in your account?'"

There had been some suspicious activity but what Maria didn't know was she was actually talking to the scammers.

"She knew all the right things to say, 'I'm really sorry this has happened to you, let's get on top of it, let's stop any more payments going out, here's what you need to do,'" Maria said of the scammer. "And that's what I did." 

After Maria gave up some crucial information, the next day she came to a grim realisation

"They pretty well cleared the accounts," she said. "[I] went to the bank on Christmas Eve and there was one left with 3 cents in it. It was about $30,000 they took.

"It was pretty devastating, I was beside myself, to be honest with you. It was such a violating feeling - I felt violated and I felt shame and felt heartbroken after working so hard all month and just being left with nothing."

Maria immediately alerted her bank, Westpac, which initially said it could take a month to investigate.

"I cannot wait thirty days, I've got staff to pay, I've got bills to pay, I've got rent to pay. My staff relies on me." 

And, as a victim, Maria isn’t alone, with warnings New Zealand could be in for a summer of scams.

“Absolutely, we do see an increase in fraud offending over summer," Det Snr Sgt Callum McNeill said. "Scammers aren't resting - they are out to get your money."

 Netsafe said 2022 has already been a record year for the wrong reasons.

"Certainly we've seen the biggest losses that we've ever seen, this year," Netsafe's Sean Lyons said.

Tragically, for Maria, this was just her latest challenge.

"We had a burglary last year then we had a four-month lockdown," she said. "It has been a really hard year."

Newshub asked Westpac what it's doing to help.

"Maria has been in touch with us and we are working with her through the details of her case," the bank said.

"We know being taken advantage of is highly distressing and we offer our sympathy to Maria."