Elaborate Facebook scam conning Kiwis of thousands of dollars prompts police warning

The Facebook app is seen on an iPhone on December 1, 2017. (Photo by Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Photo credit: Getty Images

Police have issued a warning to New Zealanders after receiving several reports of scammers posing as users' family and friends in a bid to con them out of thousands of dollars.

The accounts are created by scammers, who use pictures and personal information from public Facebook profiles, police say.

The scammers hide behind the fake profiles and contact victims telling them they've won prize money from a 'promotion', but they need to pay money into an account before they can receive their reward. The scammer then puts the victim in touch with a third party who asks for personal information, a bank account, and credit card details. The victim is also asked to pay a fee, usually around $2000, with the promise of receiving 'prize money'.

The amount of requested money then increases, with victims deceived into paying thousands of dollars.

Police say they're aware of one person who reported losing over $55,000.

"The scammers use many tactics to mislead their victims, from pretending to be a trusted contact, to putting deposits of money into the victim’s bank account to 'help them out' as the scam progresses," police say.

"The scammer tells the victim not to tell anyone about the 'promotion', and that if their bank asks any questions to say that it is money being used to assist a family member."

Police are investigating several reports of the scam in the southern, central, and Wellington districts, but suspect more people haven't formally reported it. They say they want to prevent more people from being targeted and defrauded by scammers.

Police have some tips to help prevent Kiwis from being scammed:

  • Look after your personal details in the same way you would your wallet and other possessions
  • Check the profile of someone who is contacting you unexpectedly because it could be fake
  • If something looks or sounds too good to be true, it probably is
  • If you think you may have been a victim of a scam, notify your bank immediately, and call Police on 105 to report it.

"We are also aware that scammers may target elderly or vulnerable people, so we urge people to have conversations with older or vulnerable family members about keeping safe online, and being aware of suspicious activity and tactics used by scammers," police add.

Police are urging victims of scams to come forward and be assured that any information will be taken seriously.

More information on online scams can be found here.