New Zealand is a country of dreams for many poor families in rural India, who see the Land of Long White Cloud as their escape destination from years of toil and turmoil.
In their desperation, these migrants are willing to go to any length to secure a visa to New Zealand, a visa to their dreams.
Which makes these migrants highly gullible to immigration scams that promise quick visa to New Zealand, along with a job offer.
Such scams have resurfaced as the net migration to New Zealand is expected to grow this year.
Scammers phone Indian nationals living in New Zealand claiming to be from Immigration New Zealand. They demand payment to a Western Union account in India and threaten deportation.
What makes this scam unique is that the scammers have managed to make their calls appear to have come from the official Immigration New Zealand contact centre number.
Jarrod Rendle is concerned at the number of people being caught out by this scam. He leads the Advice, Information and Education team at the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment.
“The callers are quite persistent and aggressive and they have personal details of the person they are speaking to which makes the caller think it could be genuine.”
“The calls also appear to be coming from the Immigration Contact Centre number, but in fact they are not. We call this practice a caller id spoofing scam,” says Jarrod.
Immigration New Zealand first posted a warning about the scam on its website on 30 October 2013. Since then almost 300 Indian nationals have reported being called by the scammers, with reported losses of close to $65,000, according to figures from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE).
Last year New Zealanders lost $4.8 million to scams. This year, this number has already reached $1.7 million.
How to protect yourself from falling prey to immigration scam
Knowing about the common types of scams and the typical red flags can help avoid being scammed, advises Jarrod.
Remember, banks, Immigration New Zealand or Inland Revenue will never email, call or SMS people to ask for information or money to be sent using money transfer services.
If you receive one of these calls do not pay the money. Contact the New Zealand Police or report the call to Scamwatch.
An official Facebook group by the ministry runs real-time scam alerts.
Don’t get scammed
- If you find the call suspicious, hang up immediately.
- If it doesn’t seem right, be cautious, double check details first.
- Do not pay money to anyone you have never met.
- Look after your personal details in the same way you would your wallet and other possessions. Your personal details are also very valuable to scammers, they will use your details to take out loans or run up debts if they can.
- Warn others. If you have been targeted by a scam, report it straight away to Scamwatch, and help prevent others from becoming the next scam victim.