Indian nationals living in New Zealand are being targeted by phone scammers who threaten deportation if a payment isn’t made into a Western Union account.

The callers claim to be from Immigration New Zealand and say there is a problem processing the person’s visa or arrival card information. They often have the person’s name, date of birth and address. They also quote reference numbers but these don’t seem to match Immigration New Zealand’s client or application numbers.

The callers demand the victims pay money into a Western Union account or face deportation.

In a warning from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, the callers are described as persistent and aggressive.

Calls have been made using numbers showing as the Immigration Contact Centre (09 914 4100) and Crime Stoppers (0800 555 111), but with an extra zero at the beginning.

The scammers are using a technology known as “Caller ID Spoofing”, which allows a legitimate phone number to appear when the call is actually being made from another number, possibly from outside of New Zealand.

This particular scam has been going on since about mid-2013 and appears to target only Indian nationals.

Almost 300 Indian nationals have reported being called by the scammers with the payment demanded typically ranging from $1000 to $5000.

What you need to know

  • Immigration New Zealand never requests money over the phone. No matter how important the caller may sound, do not pay.
  • Contact the New Zealand Police or report the call to Scamwatch.
  • Learn about the common types of scams and typical red flags you should be looking for.
  • If something doesn't seem right, be cautious and double-check details.
  • Do not pay money to anyone you have never met.
  • Look after your personal details in the same way you would your wallet and other possessions.

The Commerce Commission, Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, are currently promoting Australasian Consumer Fraud Week. The theme this year is ‘Get smarter with your data’ and aims to raise awareness of how consumers can protect themselves online. Commerce Commission commissioner Anna Rawlings said New Zealanders lost more than $8 million to scams in 2014.

For more information about scams, see our research report.