Travel scams still a worry
Police have issued a warning to people about a recurring travel scam.
They have identified 150 New Zealand victims who have sent nearly $4 million to offenders, some of who continue to send money even after they have been warned.
Kapi-Mana News reported a warning from Wellingtonian Justin Murphy in May.
He had received one of the glossy travel brochures in the mail, together with two scratchy lottery tickets, one of which revealed a $175,000 second prize.
Because his phone call was professionally answered by a ‘‘travel company’’ and the promotion was backed by what looked like a bona fide finance house, the whole thing looked plausible and ‘‘semi-legit’’, he said.
Of course, there was a catch – he was eventually asked for 2.1 per cent of his winnings to satisfy Hong Kong lottery rules.
He did not pay, but warned others against being sucked in.
Police believed the mailouts went out two or three times a month throughout the country and the ‘‘ product’’ was constantly re-branded with new travel company names.
The company names most recently used were Asia Star Holidays, Moonspirit Paradise Tours, Panmarina Travel, Royal Hibiscus Tours and Blue Oasis Travel Agency, all backed by plausible websites.
Victims are put in touch with the ‘‘prize’’ sponsor and, once they have ‘‘verified’’ they are the ‘‘ winner’’, they are asked to pay upfront fees, such as ‘‘entertainment tax’’.
As each payment is made, the next payment is requested, and they do not stop until the victim either runs out of money or refuses to pay any more.
Detective Senior Sergeant Aaron Pascoe said there was no prize and money sent to the offenders was lost forever.
‘‘We have had people who, months after we have contacted them, have continued to send ‘one last payment’ to release their ‘winnings’, which they never receive,’’ he said.
‘‘We need people to wise up.’’