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Police make arrests over sophisticated phone scam

Detective Sergeant Kevin Blackman, Auckland City Police:

Auckland City Police have now arrested two people in relation to Operation Deadwood, our investigation into an alleged sophisticated phone scam which has seen members of our community lose hundreds of thousands of dollars.

A 28-year-old woman and a 26-year-old man are both charged with money laundering and will be appearing in the Auckland District Court this morning.

Detective Sergeant Kevin Blackman says our investigation into this scam is ongoing and since our public appeal for information we have received hundreds of phone calls.

We are currently working through the information we have received but it is evident that a large number of our community have been targeted and unfortunately we have had more reports of people handing over significant amounts of money.

“We are not in a position to release details around these complaints at this stage but we would like to reiterate our earlier messaging around this scam and warn our community to be on high alert.

Unfortunately it would appear that the alleged scammers have been targeting those in our elderly community so we need to ensure we are checking in on our family and friends.

“We hope these arrests send a clear message that Police are taking these matters very seriously and that we will hold anyone found to be involved with this scam to account,” says Detective Sergeant Blackman.

“We are also working with banks and couriers to see if they have noticed any suspicious behaviour, and we urge them to be extra vigilant with customers who may be particularly vulnerable or are withdrawing large sums of money which may be an unusual pattern of behaviour for them as a customer.”

“The scam involves callers claiming to be from Spark and/or Police before convincing victims to withdraw or to transfer tens of thousands of dollars from their bank accounts.

The victims in these matters are almost always contacted initially on their landline phones.

The caller typically claims they are from Spark, claiming there is a security or internet issue with their computer or router.

At some point in the conservation, the victims are usually told they are the subject of identity theft/fraud through their emails and told they are being transferred to a member of the “Police Cyber Crime Unit”, where they are spoken to by a person claiming to be a police officer.

“The victim is then told that Police need their assistance to set up a “trap to catch the criminals”.

They are convinced to withdraw large sums of money – often in the area of $10,000 - $15,000 – and given an address to post the money to or bank account to transfer it to.”
The victims are often called repeatedly by the person claiming to be a police officer and talked into sending further large sums of money as part of the “trap”.

We are aware of victims being asked to send money to different addresses in Auckland, as well as overseas locations including Spain, Japan and Australia,” says Detective Sergeant Blackman.

“A Police officer will never ask for your bank details over the phone or ask you to transfer money.

If you receive a call of this nature, hang up immediately.

There is no legitimate reason for a stranger to need to put money into your account.

If you are ever asked, do not accept any money and contact Police.”

Anyone who believes they are a victim of a scam or knows someone who has handed their money is asked to please contact their local Police station with urgency.

If you receive one of these calls, then please hang up immediately.


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