Deaf community warns about card sales scam
A deaf organisation has issued a scam warning following reports of people pretending to be deaf, and profiting from selling unofficial New Zealand Sign Language education cards.
Deaf Action New Zealand posted photos of the cards on social media with a warning, which yielded many comments from people who had seen the cards being sold, mostly by women.
Deaf Action NZ secretary Rachel Noble said the cards were reportedly being sold in Lower Hutt, Wellington and Auckland but had no affiliation with deaf organisations and communities registered with the Charity Commission.
The cards included the NZ Sign Language alphabet which appeared to have been copied from Deaf Aotearoa’s free education resources.
They were being sold for $5 and claimed to be ‘‘the voice of a group of deaf people’’.
‘‘I am deaf since the childhood [sic],’’ a card read. ‘‘Our goal is to earn a living.’’
Noble said the first time a deaf person raised concerns about the cards was in April last year but reports had escalated recently.
She said it seemed many had purchased the cards.
Money given to these people would not support official deaf communities, most of which were volunteer-operated groups, she said. ‘‘We are furious about what it is doing to our reputation.
‘‘Something needs to be done.’’
She said it was unlikely the sellers had paid tax on their earnings.
Deaf Aotearoa president Oliver Ferguson said it had been contacted to ask if it was connected to the card-sellers.
He was disappointed wellmeaning people in shops and their workplaces were being targeted.
‘‘I am angry. This is a nuisance. These people think they are donating to a good cause.’’
Despite the NZSL alphabet chart on the cards being Deaf Aotearoa’s resources, he said it had nothing to do with the sales.
‘‘In fact, we have resources – such as the alphabet – freely accessible through our website [Deaf Aotearoa].’’
Toni Tetini was shopping at Westgate in west Auckland when she was approached by a woman selling the cards. Tetini was unaware of the scam at the time and asked the woman how much the cards cost, verbally, before remembering that the woman’s card said she was deaf.
However, when the woman responded by pointing to the price shown on the card, Tetini became suspicious.
‘‘It took a minute for me to realise that this lady had just responded to my question.
‘‘Once I did [realise], I couldn’t help but laugh.’’
Tetini bought one of the cards so she could warn people on social media.
Lower Hutt cafe owner Claire Matheson said a woman had approached her customers to see if they would purchase the cards.
Matheson, who happens to be involved in her local deaf communities and is fluent in NZSL, approached the woman and signed to her that it was inappropriate to go into a business with the intention of selling something without approaching the manager first.
Matheson said there was no evidence the woman was faking her deafness but she knew she wasn’t associated with official deaf organisations. She suspected that she could have been foreign.
‘‘She definitely wasn’t a NZSL user from what she signed.’’
Matheson was saddened that someone would undermine the deaf communities, which worked hard to maintain a good standard of education.
‘‘It’s the most upsetting thing knowing our friends and customers are offended by what’s been happening.’’
A police spokesperson confirmed the scam was reported on Friday.
Police recommended anyone concerned about the scam visit the Consumer Protection New Zealand website.
Deaf education cards being sold unofficially have upset the deaf community. The sellers first produce an introduction card, top, and then offer to sell the NZ Sign Language alphabet card, bottom, for $5.