Travel scams still a worry

Kapi-Mana News - - NEWS - By JIM CHIPP

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.’’

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