New Zealanders are urged to exercise caution online after a number of Kiwis were duped by fraudulent Facebook pages set up by offshore scammers.
New Zealand Police and the social media giant are warning the public to remain vigilant after authorities received "multiple reports" in relation to a series of Facebook pages posing as authentic companies.
Imitating legitimate local businesses, the scam pages are claiming to sell devices such as mobile phones and computers, NZ Police said on Thursday.
Detective Senior Sergeant Bridget Doell, from the Auckland City Police Financial Crime Unit, says a number of Kiwis who believed they were purchasing legitimate goods have been swindled by the scammers. After transferring money into an account, they never received the items.
"We are warning the public to undertake due diligence before buying any goods online," Doell said.
"Stick to verified, trusted online retailers and if you are purchasing goods online from a company you do not know, ensure the company is legitimate and has a publicly listed phone number which connects to that business."
Public policy managed for Facebook New Zealand, Nick McDonnell, says scammers are exploiting the increased reliance on social media amid the pandemic to stay connected with friends and family.
"It's more important than ever that we all work together to stay vigilant against online scams. At Facebook, the safety and security of our users is our top priority," McDonnell said.
"All apps in the Facebook family use the most sophisticated security software available, and this year we've made it easier to report suspicious content. We also publish guidelines on how to avoid online fraudsters [ link here]."
Authorities are urging Kiwis to report any suspicious activity they may see on social media.
While the scammers are based internationally, police are aware of New Zealand-based employees operating as money mules by engaging in illegal laundering.
The person in New Zealand is often enlisted by the cyber-criminals to market the page and receive deposits from duped customers, police say. They are then instructed to transfer the funds as payments into offshore accounts, which the scammers claim are refunds for products that are unable to be provided.
Doell urges the public to be aware of money laundering and its consequences. Anyone who knowingly has money put into their account for the purpose of transferring funds offshore risks prosecution.
"Anyone who is asked to partake in such activity is warned to not get involved," she said.
"If any funds are put into your account from an unknown source, you should contact your bank immediately."