Watch for travel lot­tery scam

Kapi-Mana News - - NEWS - By JIM CHIPP

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.

Photo: JIM CHIPP

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

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