Police make 13 arrests over multi-million-dollar phone scam

More than a dozen people have been arrested in relation to a "sophisticated" phone scam which has seen New Zealanders lose millions of dollars.

Police launched Operation Deadwood earlier this year after reports of people being targeted by the scammers.

The scammers call victims and claim to be from Spark and the police before convincing them to hand over money. In some cases, the victims are told to download software which gives the scammers access to the victim's computer.

Police say hundreds of New Zealanders have potentially fallen victim to the criminals' plot, which targets the elderly and vulnerable.

"We know there are victims that are either too embarrassed to report their losses or have directly contacted their banks rather than contact police, so we don't know the exact scale of this offending," says Detective Sergeant Kevin Blackman.

"The victims in these cases have often lost tens of thousands of dollars, with one victim losing around a quarter of a million dollars to the scammers."

Thirteen people have been arrested for money laundering and their cases are now before court.

Police are now seeking the public's assistance to help locate three more men who have warrants to arrest for money laundering. They are Manish Khan, 24, Tushar Prabhakar 21, and Hitesh Sharma, 22.

The wanted men.
The wanted men. Photo credit: NZ Police / Supplied

"These three men are believed to be in the Auckland area and have links in particular to south and east Auckland," Det Sgt Blackman says.

"They are also known to frequent the Auckland Airport area and Auckland central, including SkyCity.

"We want to hear immediately from anyone who has seen these individuals."

Anyone with details about their whereabouts can provide information to Detective Gillum by phoning 09 213 4300 or by emailing DGCY32@police.govt.nz.

Information can also be provided anonymously to Crimestoppers by phoning 0800 555 111.

How to protect yourself


Despite public warnings, police say they are still continuing to receive reports of people falling victims to this scam.

"We really need the community to help us spread the message to their friends and family, particularly the more vulnerable, elderly members of our community, to make sure they are also aware of this scam," Det Sgt Blackman says.

"This is an important reminder to never give your personal details over the phone to a stranger.

"A legitimate business or a member of the NZ Police will never ask for your bank details over the phone or ask you to transfer money.If you think a call may be suspicious, hang up immediately.

"If you have concerns about a call, ring the company back on their publicly listed number, not the number they have called you on, and alert them to the call you have just received."

Police encourage anyone who has lost money as a result of this scam to report it to their local station.