8 Sep 2020

Scam targets China-New Zealand money transfers

5:27 pm on 8 September 2020

A scammer has used the Financial Market Authority (FMA) as a cover to steal from people making money transfers to China.

Unknown number calling in the middle of the night. Phone call from stranger. Person holding mobile and smartphone home late.

Photo: 123RF

A woman stranded in New Zealand during the first Covid-19 lockdown lost a significant amount of money after she tried to transfer funds from China to New Zealand for her family's living expenses.

She said she had seen an advertisement on a community news outlet offering money transfer services, and arranged the transfer via WeChat, by way of a bank in Inner Mongolia.

When the money did not arrive, the woman was told it had been frozen by the FMA due to money laundering suspicions.

Her losses were compounded when a man posing as an FMA official phoned her and convinced her to pay more money to release the original sum.

FMA director of regulation Liam Mason said it was a troubling case, targeting those affected by the pandemic, and impersonating a government agency in order to steal more.

"We are trying to ascertain if the scammer is in New Zealand, as they appear to have had some local knowledge, and also if anyone else has been defrauded by them," Mason said.

He said people could protect themselves from such scams by transferring money through businesses on the Authority's Financial Service Providers Register.

"Don't fall for the scammers' line that you must pay more money to release your original funds.

"And know that the FMA would never freeze money remittance or ask you to pay any money," he said.

Mason asked anyone with information about the case, or any suspicious money transfer providers, to contact the FMA via questions@fma.govt.nz and in Chinese text if preferred.

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