23 Jan 2019

KiwiSaver retirement accounts 'prime target' for scammers

12:18 pm on 23 January 2019

Financial and fraud experts are warning that the growing billions in KiwiSaver retirement accounts are going to become a greater target by fraudsters and scam artists.

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Photo: 123RF

Serious Fraud Office (SFO) chief executive Julie Read said where there is money, there is greed, and the increasing wealth of KiwiSaver funds would lure fraudsters.

"All the retirement funds that are starting to build up now, they're going to be prime targets."

Ms Read said the white-collar crime agency wanted to work with Kiwisaver schemes to prevent fraud where she expected it to occur next, however, it lacked the resources to do so.

The Commission for Financial Capability (CFFC) has already started to help stop retirees being scammed out of their savings.

CFFC fraud education manager Bronwyn Groot said it was a "huge problem," especially after KiwiSaver funds were withdrawn.

"All of a sudden they [retirees] have got all of this money they have got access to, and fraudsters know that and they will do anything they can to make some easy money."

She said an estimated $10.5 billion will be withdrawn from KiwiSaver accounts for people aged 55 to 64 over the next decade, and that will attract the con artists.

"What we're already seeing is people getting lured into fake investment scams, particularly overseas."

'I hate myself'

Ms Groot cited the case of a 72-year-old Auckland man scammed out of $209,000 in retirement savings.

The man, who spoke to RNZ on condition of anonymity, said he was groomed by two men over the phone who posed as British brokers working for an asset management firm in Hong Kong.

He questioned the men at the time, but after numerous phone conversations he said they sounded legitimate and he felt trapped.

He realised it was a scam in November, after seeing a warning from the Financial Markets Authority.

"I hate myself. I've felt suicidal over this. I just don't love myself anymore and that's not like me." he said.

"It was basically my life savings, my future. I can't understand how I let myself fall prey to this."

Ms Groot said supposed overseas investment schemes and online trading platforms holding out the prospects of big, rich returns were becoming more common, and invariably they were scams.

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