The Malaysian Travel Scam is once again rearing its head, and CFFC’s Fraud Education Manager Bronwyn Groot is warning New Zealanders to be careful.
The scam takes the form of personally addressed mail containing Malaysian travel brochures and scratchie cards, which lure recipients with the promise of prize money worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The scam was prevalent in 2013, but an orchestrated sweep by NZ Post, the Police and NZ Customs saw 350,000 envelopes confiscated.
“The scam stopped overnight,” says Groot. “But in the past year I’ve had reports of it creeping back in again; it might be time for another sweep.”
The Postal Workers Union has raised the alarm, as many posties now recognise the distinctive envelopes. They’re about half the size of an A4, bear several Malaysian stamps, are addressed to the recipient with their surname first, and have no return address.
When recipients contact the companies named on the brochures to claim their winnings from the scratchie cards, they are told to pay fees and taxes to release the funds. Some people lose thousands of dollars before they realise they’ve been scammed.
Groot says the increasing sophistication of scammers makes everyone vulnerable. They craft authentic-looking websites to match the company names on the brochures.
“I’ve identified nearly 300 fake websites connected to this scam, so even if you’re trying to do due diligence you can be tricked into thinking it’s real,” says Groot.
She advises the public to take no action with the brochures, but instead show them to friends and family to make them aware of the scam, and notify NZ Post that the envelopes are being delivered in their area.
“If you’ve already sent money, notify your bank and the police immediately,” says Groot. “Unfortunately, the money may have already disappeared overseas, where it is almost impossible to recover.”
As with any offer that seems too good to be true, Groot advises recipients to “stop and think, is this for real?”