'Police officer' phone scam targeting New Zealanders

Auckland police are investigating a potential phone scam after someone has been targeting the Indian community pretending to be a police officer.

The scammer calls victims and says they are a New Zealand police officer. They then tell them that a family member has been arrested and demands cash in order to release a family member from custody.

In some of the incidents, the victim has been asked to purchase a significant amount of iTunes vouchers instead of cash.

Detective Sergeant Bridget Doell, from the Auckland City Police Financial Crime Unit, says the scammers have been targeting members of the Indian community.

"These scams are quite complex and on at least one occasion the scammer has known personal information about the victim," she says.

"Police, or any other government agency, will never demand money or any other form of payment over the phone.

"In no instance would a call like this be genuine. If you receive a suspicious call, do not engage with them and hang up immediately."

Det Sgt Doell says Police are making enquiries into these incidents and working to identify those involved in the scam.

"These scammers are preying on members of our community who may not be completely familiar with New Zealand law and our Police practices," she says.

"We want to prevent anyone else from falling victim to this malicious scam. If you have any information that may help our investigation or if you have received a similar phone call, please contact the Auckland City Police Financial Crime Unit on (09) 302 6400 or your nearest police station."

Police targeted by scammers

Even police have been targetted by scammers. In September, Police said a staff member was phoned by someone from overseas they didn't know - and he's sure it was a scam.

"There were approximately three or four calls throughout the evening as they tried to connect with us and the number was definitely from overseas.  The first calls were straight hang ups," said Detective Sergeant Heath Jones.

"When they were finally able to connect and speak to me it was a male sounding of Indian or Middle Eastern descent. In the background there was the noise of a 'busy office' with male and female voices. It very much sounded like a call centre."

The scammers told Det Sgt Jones he had a 'computer problem', and he played along.

"The man wanted me to follow his instructions to fix it, including typing 'support.me' into a search engine," he said.

"Eventually they hung up, when I didn't do as they asked, but I am concerned that other people in the Eastern District are being targeted too and may be tricked into giving them access to their computers."

How to keep safe:

Once your number is targeted, it's difficult to do a lot except wait until the scammers move on. So here are some top tips from Vodafone on how to keep yourself safe in the future.

Set a password (not something easy to guess like 1234) on your phone, laptop, or tablet and keep them locked when not in use. Never share your passwords or PIN numbers and make sure they're not easy to guess. Set up a PIN for your voicemail, so only you can access it.

Be cautious with sharing personal information on social networking sites, like Facebook or chat rooms. If possible, remove your date of birth and address from your page. Ensure that you have adequate privacy settings for your Facebook profile.

Don't give anyone your personal details, unless you're very sure you know who they are. Just because someone says they're from your bank doesn't mean it's true.

Watch out for phishing: where you get sent links online which might take you to a fake website. Do not open attachments sent to you from strange numbers, they might contain a virus.

Buying online? Make sure the site address starts with HTTPS. This means the website is secure and your personal details and credit card details will be kept secure.

Lost or stolen device? Hop onto a PC and change all your passwords of the apps that have auto logins, for example Facebook, Email, Twitter. This will prevent the person who picks up your device from accessing these apps and potentially hacking into your personal details

Think you've been the victim of a scam or fraud?

Contact your bank and put a stop on your credit card, tell your local police, and change the passwords and PIN on all your bank accounts. Get in touch with your telco provider immediately and let them know.

And don't be embarrassed! These people make their living by fooling intelligent people. Make sure you let the appropriate people know immediately, rather than suffering in silence.