Watch for travel lottery scam
Lottery scammers have become more sophisticated, according to the would-be victim of an unsuccessful fraud.
Wellington resident Justin Murphy was surprised but sceptical when he received a glossy brochure in the mail purporting to be from an established tour company but he went along with it for a time.
He said the Malaysian and Hong Kong- based perpetrators used common sales psychology to try to suck him in.
A minor part of the package was two scratchy lottery tickets, one of which told him he had won the second prize, $US175,000.
It was interesting because the sum was not implausibly massive, like well-known Lagos scams, he said.
When he contacted the Malaysian travel company, the phone was answered by a professional-sounding receptionist, who passed him on to ‘‘the claims manager’’, who spoke good English.
He was told he had won, but his win might not be valid because he was not a client. He had been sent the tickets in error.
They had dangled a carrot, and now they had taken it away again, Murphy said.
Then they said the lottery sponsor had agreed to honour it anyway, on the condition he first signed a non- disclosure agreement so real clients who had not won would not find out.
The sponsor company also looked plausible – a finance house that appeared to back hotels, resorts and other travel businesses. It was fronted by a man who gave his name as Kenneth Pan.
Murphy was still sceptical but his attitude began to soften. ‘‘It all started to sound semi-legit,’’ he said.
Over a period of days phone calls and emails were exchanged until they got to the real point; to satisfy Hong Kong lottery rules and the tax department, he was to deposit 2.1 per cent of the win into a holding account in Hong Kong, $US3675.
He was not to use the bank of his own choice, the Hong Kong Savings Bank, which has New Zealand branches. Instead he was to send the money via Western Union.
‘‘That was a red flag,’’ he said.
Western Union is the choice agency of scammers, because payments can’t be reversed.
In the end Murphy refused to have anything more to do with them, but still receives emails and phone calls from them and wants others to be forewarned. Murphy is a salesman. ‘‘What I found interesting was the psychology was a wee bit slick. One moment you’ve got it, the next you haven’t.’’
Building up a prospect’s hopes, dashing them and after a delay, rekindling them was a commonlyused manipulative ploy among all sorts of local sales people, he said.
A Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment spokeswoman said the Scamwatch team was first notified of this scratchand-win type of travel scam about 18 months ago.
‘‘The company name changes every week or so but it’s always the same method – two scratchies arrive, one of which wins a second prize of $175,000.’’
The ministry advised consumers to be on their guard and treat any offers they receive from overseas companies in the form of scratch-cards with free holidays or cash prizes with extreme caution.
They should not pay any money upfront for supposed taxes or fees and never provide personal information, such as a driver’s licence number.
A scam alert can be found at consumeraffairs. govt. nz/ scamnews.
Sceptic: Justin Murphy wasn’t taken in by this Hong Kong scam and he doesn’t want others to be. – Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment spokeswoman