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Scams against NZ Pacific communities on the rise

by Lewis Panther | 15 May 2020
COVID-19 rorts, investment scams and pyramid schemes targeting Kiwi Pacific communities are on the rise.

Regulators have launched an awareness campaign to warn New Zealanders about the worrying issue which has worsened since the impact of the pandemic.

The Financial Markets Authority revealed there had been a steady increase in complaints about a variety of scams since the beginning of March. 

A cryptocurrency campaign on social media using fake news articles and false celebrity endorsements to promote Bitcoin investments has been the most reported scam.

The regulators’ campaign includes tips on how to spot scams and
FMA Director of Regulation Liam Mason said although scammers don’t discriminate, targeting Kiwis of all ethnicities, there are certain scams that have been aimed specifically towards Pacific communities.

“We saw the OneCoin pyramid scheme proliferate through Pacific social and community groups,” he said. 

“Last year the FMA also reiterated its warning that Skyway Group (or SWIG) may be involved in a scam and was targeting Pacific groups.”

The regulators’ campaign includes tips on how to spot scams and what to do if you or a loved one have been directly affected by one.

Investment scams fall under the remit of the FMA, while pyramid schemes are prohibited by the Fair Trading Act, which is enforced by the Commerce Commission.

Commerce Commission Associate Commissioner Joseph Liava’a said: “Our advice is pretty simple: don’t just trust, check it out. Even if someone you love and trust tells you a money-making scheme is OK, don’t just trust. 

“There are lots of resources you can use for simple research, like Netsafe and the Scamwatch website.”

The campaign includes radio ads featuring Mr Liava’a, as well as bilingual webpages and resources. 

The ads will play on popular Pacific radio stations and supporting resources will be in Samoan and Tongan, the two most widely spoken Pacific languages in New Zealand.

The key overarching message for anyone thinking about investing money is to do your own research into the person or company offering the investment.

“At the very least, check if they are on the online Financial Services Providers Register, which by law they should be,” says Mason. “Or check if they’re named on the FMA’s Warnings webpage.”

Mr Mason encourages prospective investors to visit the FMA’s dedicated investment scams webpages, or the Commerce Commission’s page on pyramid schemes.

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