Warnings - Telephone Scam Targeting Widows & Widowers


We have been made aware recently of a telephone scam which is targeting widows and widowers.  The scammers are going through obituaries and then targeting victims when they are at their most vulnerable.  The stories we have heard have all been very similar and we urge our clients to keep themselves safe as well as ensuring their friends and family are aware of this scam.

 The scammers will telephone a relative of the deceased and tell them that they are from a Government agency and that it has come to their attention that the deceased had a large debt owing to them which the agency is there to help recover.  This call will often come at a time when family are trying to sort through financial records and put affairs in order and may sound quite plausible.  The scammers have very good spoken English however, the background noise makes it clear that they are calling from a call centre. 

 The scammer will detail the debt outstanding and eventually come around to the need to pay a debt collection fee.  They will then ask you to put through a payment to them and may ask that you allow them remote access to your computer using a program called TeamViewer.  They will then ask you to log into your online banking and allow them to put through a payment to a New Zealand bank account.  The initial payment may seem quite reasonable. They may also request that a payment be made via transfer using an agency such as Western Union for Money Gram. 

 Once this first payment is made, the scammers will then call back on a regular basis and request further payments due to increased recovery costs.  If the person being scammed starts to sound unsure, they become more aggressive in their approach. 

 Of particular note is that some people will actually receive money into their account from the scammers as an initial repayment of the debt.   This is obviously very encouraging and therefore the person will make more payments to the scammer to be able to recover the remainder of the debt.  Unfortunately, it is most likely that those funds will have come from another person being scammed who thinks they are paying a debt recovery fee.  The scammers will use previous victim's bank accounts to keep the scam going as long as possible. 

 If you think you or someone you know has been a victim of a scam, contact the police immediately.  The Police have a special team set up to work with victims of scams of this nature.  They also have officers available who can talk with people who are not yet ready to believe they are being scammed and help them to understand. 

 If you receive a call that you think sounds too good to be true or which may be suspect, hang up and call us with the details.  We can check many details for you and let you know whether the information sounds legitimate or not. 

 Scammers prey on people when they are most vulnerable and usually leave them feeling foolish and afraid to speak out.  Awareness of their methods is the best way to help those around you avoid being tricked out of their hard earned money.