Helen Keller once wrote, “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.”

Of course, she meant that from a pure and charitable perspective, but it is a concept also embraced by fraudsters and scammers whose goal is to actively and covertly recruit as many others as possible to assist in their offending.

The internet is a benefit in this regard.

It provides a platform for a scammer to cast their ‘nets’ wide and provides an almost unlimited opportunity to snare a vulnerable and or gullible accomplice.

They know how to manipulate and pull at heartstrings.

A recent investigation revealed the following modus operandi:

A man starts chatting, via an internet messaging platform, with a pretty 20-something female, as a ‘friend’.  She creates a rapport and tells him she lives in France and works for a charity helping the disadvantaged in Africa.

She flatters him, builds trust and then asks for his help.

She needs an address to send parcels to.

She says there are items that can be bought cheaper online in New Zealand because of the currency exchange.

She tells him he would helping the charity immensely – that these goods will be used and distributed by the charity to help the education and connectivity of the underprivileged and isolated.

But the retail outlets don’t post internationally, hence the need for a New Zealand address.

It is not a charity he has heard about – she tells him it is because it is just small, and all the more reason to keep costs low and take advantage of favourable costings in New Zealand.

All she asks him to do is forward the packages on to her.

She will make arrangements to prepay the onward courier and postage costs if he could liaise with the local freight company.

And so he agrees, but he doesn’t have a reliable postal address, he works and won’t be there to sign for the packages.

He asks a family member if they wouldn’t mind helping out.

‘For charity’, of course.

And so the kind-hearted and ‘charitable’ family start to receive the packages.

Phones, computers, shoes, clothes, musical instruments, IT equipment – the volume and variety is staggering.

Diligently, they forward the packages on to Ghana and Togo.

They do this until Police come knocking and say that all the goods have been obtained by deception.

In other words, the multiple credit cards used to make each and every transaction were stolen or fake.

They have been set up, they are the fall guys and they could be facing charges for being complicit in criminal activity.  The reality is there is no pretty young thing, no charity, and no good will.

The place in Ghana that the packages were sent to was in Accra – a hub of the ‘Sakawa Boys’, which would mean nothing to the average person but in the fraudster world, this is the nexus of African internet scamming.

A quick Google search will reveal they are ruthless scammers.

Tips for safeguarding against fraud:

  • If an investment seems too good to be true, it probably is
  • Members of the public should seek advice before making any online investments they are unsure of
  • Scammers are extremely persistent and can seem very credible as they are highly versed in their trade
  • Do not have your address, or that of anyone you know, used as a halfway house for packages bought online by ‘friends’
  • If any interaction with someone online includes a connection with Ghana, Nigeria or Togo – no matter what their story might be – do not engage with them
  • Ignorance and/or naivety are not reliable defences in a criminal proceeding in New Zealand.

Helen Keller may have been blind but as the proverb goes, “There are none so blind as those who will not see.”

Anyone who believes they have been a victim of a crime, in person or online, should report the matter to their local Police.

Please attribute to Constable Susan Hutchins, Financial Crime Team Auckland Central.