Lunar New Year warning: ‘Scammers thrive on secrecy’

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Chinese New Zealanders are being urged to be wary of investment scams during this year’s Lunar New Year celebrations.

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A survey has revealed about 20 percent of Chinese New Zealanders have encountered some form of investment scam.
Photo: 123RF

The Financial Markets Authority said the scams tend to advertise on social media using messaging apps to arrange payments to businesses that purport to be legitimate.

“This Year of the Ox, scammers will continue to work hard to steal honest people’s money. Don’t let your hard work go to waste by sending anyone money without doing the basic background checks,” FMA director of regulation Liam Mason said.

He said that investors should not be easily fooled by professional-looking websites, and that the use of online tools is a common trend among investment scams.

The FMA received just under 200 reports of scams and fraud from the public in 2020 but only a handful of complaints came from Chinese New Zealanders.

This comes after a survey by the FMA revealed about 20 percent of Chinese New Zealanders said they had encountered one.

Mason suspected Chinese New Zealanders were choosing not to report scams because they did not know who to contact, or they believed there was no point because what they lost was relatively small.

“We’re also aware of cases where scammers have even warned victims will get in trouble with New Zealand authorities if they report the crime. This is obviously not correct.”

He said the FMA had Chinese-speaking staff and its call centres had interpreters to help people where English was not their first language.

“Scammers thrive on secrecy. They prey on people’s desire not to lose face or cause a fuss. But that only helps them keep scamming others. Reporting them means we can investigate, warn the public, and refer victims to other agencies who may have more tools to help.”

Last year, the FMA launched a community outreach programme with the Chinese community after a scammer targeted a woman making overseas money transfers.

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