A Tongan mother of two has spoken of being scammed of money she was saving for a house deposit by a trusted colleague who encouraged her to invest in a cryptocurrency.
Samena, not her real name, paid $5300 upfront for packages with OneCoin on behalf of herself and her sons.
After transferring the money she attended a meeting where, in her words, “I still didn’t understand anything.”
She tried to pull out, but her ‘friend’ said she had already verbally agreed to the terms and conditions, despite never seeing them.
Despite being given a password, her concerns at the situation grew.
“I just tried to navigate my way around the website and the account and I found the terms and conditions and that’s when I read that you had to be 18 or older to become a OneLife OneCoin member and I was worried when I read that because I had bought three packages, one for my two children who were under that age, under 18, so I realised that’s not right,” she told Tagata Pasifika.
“So I questioned her, texted, called and just didn’t get a reply and I think I knew that the chances of getting my money back was very slim.”
Samena is one of many scam victims in New Zealand, many of who don’t report what’s happened to them, says Gillian Boyes, investment capability member at the FMA.
“It’s really quite hard to get the reporting on scams cause a lot of people who have been scammed, they feel really ashamed and embarrassed so they don’t report it, so it’s very hard for us to know what the level of scam reporting is.”
Boyes says Pacific people are often targeted by affinity frauds, which are spread through trusted communities.
Last year Samoan churches reportedly became the target of OneCoin, a Ponzi scheme, which saw members and Ministers invest an estimated $3.6 million.
“We don’t have definitive numbers, we’ve seen an upswing of scams across all communities at the moment,” Boyes told Tagata Pasifika.
“But the reason we wanted to focus this campaign on Pacific communities was that it’s a particular type of scam, so what we call affinity fraud. They are taking advantage of trusted networks and trusted communities to sell products that are fraudulent and scammy and the normal warning signs for scams aren’t there.”
The Commerce Commission and the FMA have joined forces to educate Pacific communities about scammers.
“If it looks too good to be true then it usually is,” said Joseph Liava’a of the Commerce Commission.
“The hallmarks of scams are huge profit margins, very little risk, which together is impossible. No one offers that. There might be a reluctance to put things in writing, no emails, no texts.”