It can be hard to know if you’ve been scammed or are being scammed. Scammers know how to win people’s confidence, hence why they’re also called ”con artists”. Many even form close relationships with victims. With investments, often they first charm you with shows of wealth, talk you into giving them yours, then give good excuses as to why they can’t give it back.
What are the obvious signs?
You might not see all of these common signs of a scam, but just one or two should ring alarm bells:
They give you little or no information in writing. All legit investments must have documents explaining the investment in plain English.
They ask for unusual payments. Scammers hate using ‘normal’ banks. If they want you to pay using wire services, credit cards or overseas banks, they’re probably not legit.
They keep wanting more money. They may say the sale can only go ahead if you buy more shares, or there are taxes to be paid. Or you must act fast to cash in. It’s all part of the scam.
They can’t or won’t pay you back. Legitimate financial investments can usually be sold within hours or days. You should be able to get some or all of your money back that quickly.
They’re on our Warning List.We publish warnings of known scams. But just because they’re not on our list doesn’t mean they’re not a scam. Scammers regularly change their names.
If you think you’re being scammed
Get a reality check:
Stop and ask yourself: "Is this for real?" Read the signs listed above and if any of them apply to your situation, write down your own list of reasons it could be a scam.
Ask family or friends what they think. See what someone you know who’s good with money thinks about what your suspicions. Others can help you ‘wake up’ to the reality of a scam.
Do some digging:
Note any discrepancies in bank details. If they say they’re based in one country but the bank account you’re asked to pay to is in a different country, it could be a scam.
Check the website registration details. Use a “who is” web tool to find out who registered it, and when. If it wasn’t in a country where the business says it is based, and/or was recently set up when they claim to have been operating for years, be very suspicious.
Reverse search any images on their website. Sites like Tineye.com let you copy and paste any image into their search engine and tell you where else it’s been used.
Take decisive action:
Tell them to communicate by email. Get what they’re saying in writing, and ask for summaries of your investments to date, so you can begin a paper trail.
Stop paying them money: Make no more payments even if they say it will help get your money back. This is all part of the scam.
Ask for all or some of your money back. Say you need it urgently. If they can’t or won’t give it back to you within 1-2 weeks, or say you must pay more to get it back, it’s probably a scam.
If you know you’ve been scammed
Stop contact with the scammer. If they phone, hang up. If they send emails or letters, don’t reply. If you maintain contact they will only try to get more money or information out of you.
Contact your bank immediately. They will have a policy to deal with fraud. If you have sent money through another bank or transfer service, contact the service you used to do that.
Contact us: We can give you advice or connect you with someone who can. We’re limited in what we can do because scammers are often overseas. But we can keep trying to stop others being scammed. Contact us by phone or email.
Tell family or friends what’s happened. It can be hard to admit you’ve been tricked and lost money, but scammers rely on this shame and secrecy so they can keep scamming others.
Contact Victim Support on 0800 842 846 or visit their website: victimsupport.org.nz. They can provide free emotional and practical support and information.
What if a relative or friend is being scammed?
Tell them you think it’s a scam. Scam victims usually don’t realise what’s happening until it’s too late, or may not want to believe they have been tricked.
Suggest they visit this website. Some victims don’t even know what a scam is, or they can’t believe scammers can be so good at tricking people.