28 Jan 2022

Westpac NZ is warning New Zealanders to look out for a so-called “penalty scam” that is particularly targeting Chinese customers.

Westpac NZ Head of Financial Crime Mark Coxhead says his team is seeing an increase in threat and penalty scams, in which customers are pressured into handing over money by people posing as authority figures.

“Scammers are contacting people and claiming to be from the police, another government agency, or a business, and threatening to take severe action or fine them unless they make payments or give out personal information,” Mr Coxhead says.

“There have been recent reports of scammers making contact via video call, posing as police officers in China and accusing the recipient of a crime. They threaten them with harm, arrest or legal action if they do not make payments to an overseas account.”

Mr Coxhead is urging customers to contact their bank immediately if they think they’ve been the target of a scam.

“Fraudsters and scammers are getting increasingly sophisticated in how they operate, and we’re working around the clock to keep our customers safe.

“But customers can help us and themselves by staying vigilant and reporting anything that doesn’t seem right.”

What customers should look out for

  • Threatening calls, messages or emails – Police will never contact you in a video call or phone call and ask you to send money.
  • Threats that you will face legal action or that your online history or photos will be exposed.
  • A sense of urgency to make a payment or provide information.
  • Being asked to lie or withhold information from your bank.
  • Contact that is unusual, unsolicited or out of the blue.
  • Unusual payment methods like cryptocurrency, gift cards or overseas payments.

What customers should do

  • If you receive a call similar to that described above, hang up immediately.
  • Don’t feel pressured to comply with a request urgently. Any genuine business or government agency will give you time to pay outstanding invoices, bills or fees.
  • If you get an urgent request to make a payment, contact the organisation using the contact details on their official website to confirm whether the request is genuine.
  • Never share your online banking passwords.
  • Always be honest about what happened with your bank so that they can assist you and help keep your money safe.