4 Nov 2019

Scam leaving elderly thousands out of pocket not being intercepted

11:26 am on 4 November 2019

A long-running Malaysian postal scam that's milked millions of dollars out of New Zealanders has reappeared.

72222257 - older person counting money in her palm

Photo: 123RF

The scam involves fake companies sending fake scratch-card lotteries and telling the supposedly lucky winners they'll have to pay tax and insurance costs before receiving their prize.

A significant number of the letters have been delivered to rest homes and retirement villages.

The Postal Workers Union is trying to stop its members being forced to deliver the fake promotion, which it says scammed people out of $1.7 million just in 2013.

Postal Workers Union national president John Maynard told Morning Report this scam had been going on for six years.

"I myself have got one of the prizes of $US150,000. For the amount of mail they're sending in, they must be doing pretty well."

In 2016, nearly 18,000 of the letters were intercepted. They were not being intercepted this year, he said.

"We've been to the High Commission of Malaysia, also to the Commissioner of Police who will forward the complaint to Interpol because we want this stopped. Clearly, they're fleecing a lot of money from New Zealand people who think this is a genuine prize that they've won ... usually $US150,000 or $US180,000."

The scam involves the promise of a large cash prize if the person sends thousands of dollars to release the winnings.

"Unfortunately people are paying it. One person paid $18,000 before realising it was a scam, another person had paid three lots of money totalling $64,000. Often in scams, people when they realise they've been scammed, they don't say anything so we're concerned when we see so many of these letters pouring in that a lot of people will be scammed without anyone ever knowing."

He said he went himself to track down the scam and found "they were using the head office of the Malaysian government's pension fund".

"Bit of an irony that they're then trying to scam retired people and pensioners in New Zealand."

While they work to stop the scam, in the meantime, people could watch out for a few details if they received suspicious mail.

"These things come in a white envelope, half the size of an A4.

"It's got a very colourful brochure and two colourful scratchies on it. But you'll notice, there's no return address and your name printed on it is family name first and then your first name ... most often the correct address."

New Zealand Post has been approached for comment.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs