Rae Nield: Scam busting

Rae Nield: Scam busting

You don't need the Internet to run a scam

We've become so used to Internet spam, scams and fraudulent conduct that sometimes we forget that some of the scams currently operating in New Zealand and worldwide are so old they've grown whiskers. You don’t need the internet to run a scam. A couple of weeks ago, a client rang me about faxes he kept on getting from a debt collection agency in Europe. "Pay up" they said, threatening dire retribution if he didn't. The dollars kept on going up with each fax. A year earlier, a staff member had been presented with a piece of paper offering the company a free listing in a business directory published in Switzerland - "Just confirm your details below", it said. But in the very fine print it said that the "free" listing would actually cost rather a lot of money payable over three years. And in any case, when you read it very carefully it wasn't a directory listing at all, but something to do with a plumbing industry trade fair in Holland. Then the cards and letters started rolling. My client manfully struggled with replies , but it made no difference. Then he started getting the threatening phone calls - and they were very threatening. His company was to be taken to court in Vienna (yes, that’s in Austria). Papers had already been prepared for filing, according to the caller. By this stage, he got fed up and rang me. Alas, I had seen it all before, the first time some - no, I'm not going to tell you how many decades ago. But these days it's all a little bit easier to deal with, because there are Internet websites and chat groups where people pool their experiences including what works and what doesn't, and also who complain to in the country that the scam originates from. So I sent a carefully worded fax along the lines of "go away" (and yes, it was polite). Later that day I got a phone call at 5:30 p.m., a time when all good Swiss and Austrian people would be thinking about eating their Bircher muesli if indeed they were out of bed. It was 11:30 a.m. in Mumbai, and that was reflected in the accent of the caller. I followed the instructions on the scam website: I asked if he was getting a commission for getting money out of my client. He didn't like that. I told him that I would carefully scrutinise any papers and would notify the relevant authorities, then hung up. Next, the phone almost exploded in my hand. I was told that I was a ... and deserved ... well, let's not go there, except to say that it was anatomically impossible. 10 minutes later, my client rang. He had also received a call, had asked the magic question and received the male version of the abuse. We haven't heard anything since, and don't expect to - it's such an obvious scam when you look at it, it would amount to criminal activity in this country. And that of course is one of the key points. It is not easy to enforce a foreign judgment in New Zealand. If the judgment comes from a higher court in a country where New Zealand has a reciprocal enforcement strategy, there are streamlined procedures. But even then, a court will not enforce a judgment which has clearly been obtained by fraud. So if you're one of the people who has been scammed in this way, use google to find the scam web sites, find out the magic words for that scam, and use them. It’s a signal you are on to them. And they don’t like that.

This article is intended for general information, and should not be relied on as specific legal advice. You should consult a lawyer for advice relating to your own specific legal problems. Rae Nield can be contacted at

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