A Wellington-based Indian IT worker was duped of $3910 on Tuesday, April 17, by a phone scammer pretending to call from the office of the Consulate of India, Auckland.
The caller made the victim transfer this hefty amount to overseas receivers through Western Union, apparently in lieu of favour of “Consulate’s help in sorting his visa issues with the Immigration New Zealand (INZ).”
The victim had first arrived New Zealand about three years ago on a work visa and is currently on Resident Visa working for a Wellington-based Software company.
The scammer called him on Tuesday afternoon, posing as an official from the Indian Consulate office in Auckland. .
Speaking to the Indian Weekender, Hon. Consul of India, Bhav Dhillon, said, “I am sorry about this person’s predicament. But I can confirm that it was not any of our offices asking for that money.,”.
“Our office has been receiving multiple calls from members of the public lately who have reported missing calls and receiving voice messages seeming to come from the Consulate’s phone number.
“We have been advising members of the public and the wider community through numerous social media and media posts and other networking groups within the broader Indian community,” Mr Dhillon said.
The office of the Indian High Commission in Wellington also expressed their frustration about the incidence.
Speaking to The Indian Weekender, High Commissioner of India, Sanjiv Kohli, said, “It is frustrating that such incidences continue to happen despite our repeated efforts to educate members of the community that our offices do not solicit for money over the phone.
During the call, which continued for about two hours, the scammer was first able to gain the confidence of the victim by revealing some personal information and then began probing enquiry into his current visa status, seemingly feeding on an all-pervasive fear among some sections of the community of cancellation of visa or deportation.
Strikingly, the scammer had some accurate information about the victim’s recent overseas visit and entry back into New Zealand.
The scammer then told absolute lies saying that the victim had provided some “wrong information” on the immigration form which has prompted INZ to cancel his visa and deport him back to his country of origin – a situation too compelling for the victim to ignore or crosscheck.
New Modus Operandi by scammers
While the scammers on the phone usually feed on some people’s perceived fear about the cancellation of visa and deportation, especially those from the Indian subcontinent, in this instance, there was slight improvisation.
The caller in this instance pretended that Consulate Office could facilitate a favourable action from the INZ in lieu of money, which according to the caller was “refundable.”
The scammer also seemed to be aware of the recent news report where INZ officials were reported to have raided some people’s houses checking their visa status and played upon fear related to it.
The scammer told the victim, “An immigration officer will come to your address in NZ between 7.30 to 8. 00 pm to check your original passport and visa label.”
INZ and NZ Police have repeatedly warned members of the public to be aware of such scammers generally targeting people from the Indian subcontinent.
The INZ website has posted the following warning.
How to recognise if the call is a scam
1. The caller tells the person that there has been a problem with their visa or arrival card information.
2. They demand they pay money into a Western Union account or face serious consequences, such as deportation.
3. Often the caller has some details of the person they are speaking to such as their name, date of birth or address, so the calls appear genuine.
4. Their caller ID comes up with09 6366306 or 04 4736390.