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Investment scammers targeting Taranaki residents with Covid-19 vaccine pitch | #coronavirus | #scams | #cybersecurity | #informationsecurity


When Graeme Thomas was offered the chance of lucrative investment over the phone, the fact the callers knew his name, phone number and email was almost enough to convince him it was real.

“They first said, ‘How would you feel about investing $20,000?’ They said, ‘I know it must seem suspicious, some guy from overseas and offering you this opportunity,’” the Taranaki man explained.

Thomas said the personal details they knew about him nearly convinced him they were legitimate, and he admits to coming close to handing over his money.

Luckily, he decided to check with his investment adviser first, who warned him off the deal, saying scammers appeared to be recently targetting Taranaki residents, duping some people out of more than $100,000.

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Thomas, of New Plymouth, said the scammers were sophisticated and had money behind them.

The scammers, who Thomas said sounded as though they had English or American accents, played on Covid-19 and wanted him to invest in a company allegedly close to human vaccine testing.

“And I’m thinking, ‘Hold on a minute. Everyone else is saying six to 12 months at the earliest and you’re saying tomorrow,’” he said.

“I’m always suspicious when someone rings me up and says: ‘You want to make some money?’”

Thomas said this was the second time he had been contacted by them.

The first time they wanted him to invest in a company working with new battery technology for electronic cars.

Lyndsay Mussen, investment adviser at Forsyth Barr in New Plymouth, said every few months they receive a number of phone calls and walk-ins from people with the same story.

He said it appeared the phone scammers concentrated on Taranaki for a couple of months, move on, then return again.

“People are being called by unknown overseas ‘investment experts’ offering the opportunity to purchase shares in well-known overseas companies in an Initial Public Offering (IPO) or takeovers.

”Once convinced, they send contract notes to purchase shares and then ask for further funds to sell the shares.”

Mussen said clients had been contacting them for help to sell shares they think they own but upon checking, they actually don’t.

He hadn’t noticed a particular age group being targeted but said those interested in investing in overseas opportunities should do it through a New Zealand-licensed provider of financial services.

Earlier this month a scammer posing as a European TV contractor duped Emirates Team New Zealand into send a large financial payment to a Hungarian bank account.

Team NZ received an email, which they believed to be from the contractor, advising of a new Hungarian bank account to make a scheduled payment to – a seven-figure amount was then transferred to the account.

Weeks later the contractor began asking about the missing money.

In early 2019, a Taranaki daycare was scammed out of $54,000 in a similar fashion.

Mussen said it was illegal to cold-call and pitch investment offers in New Zealand.

“If you ever do receive such a call, it’s almost certainly a scam, simply hang up or delete the email.”

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