Two people have been charged with money laundering following a police investigation into sophisticated phone scams.
Auckland City Police Detective Sergeant Kevin Blackman said people had lost hundreds of thousands of dollars on the scams, but today confirmed a 28-year-old woman and a 26-year-old man were arrested in relation to Operation Deadwood.
Both will appear in the Auckland District Court this morning.
"We hope these arrests send a clear message that police are taking these matters very seriously and that we will hold anyone found to be involved with this scam to account," Mr Blackman said.
Police's appeal for information received hundreds of calls, he said, adding the investigation into the alleged scams is ongoing.
The scam involves callers claiming to be from Spark or police before convincing victims to withdraw or to transfer tens of thousands of dollars from their bank accounts, he said. The victims, he said, are almost always contacted initially on their landline phones.
The caller typically claims they are from Spark, claiming there is a security or internet issue with their computer or router.
At some point in the conservation, the victims are usually told they are the subject of identity theft or fraud through their emails and told they are being transferred to a member of the police cyber crime unit, where they are spoken to by a person claiming to be a police officer.
"The victim is then told that police need their assistance to set up a "trap to catch the criminals"," Mr Blackman said.
They are convinced to withdraw large sums of money – often in the area of $10,000 to $15,000 – and given an address to post the money to or bank account to transfer it to.
The victims are often called repeatedly by the person claiming to be a police officer and talked into sending further large sums of money as part of the "trap".
"We are aware of victims being asked to send money to different addresses in Auckland, as well as overseas locations including Spain, Japan and Australia," Mr Blackman said, adding, "a police officer will never ask for your bank details over the phone or ask you to transfer money".
"We are currently working through the information we have received but it is evident that a large number of our community have been targeted and unfortunately we have had more reports of people handing over significant amounts of money," Mr Blackman said, warning the public to be on high alert for the scam activity.
"Unfortunately it would appear that the alleged scammers have been targeting those in our elderly community so we need to ensure we are checking in on our family and friends," he added.
Mr Blackman said police were also working with banks and couriers to see if they have noticed any suspicious behaviour.
"We urge them to be extra vigilant with customers who may be particularly vulnerable or are withdrawing large sums of money which may be an unusual pattern of behaviour for them as a customer," he said.
He advised anyone who receives the type of call to hang up immediately, saying there is no legitimate reason for a stranger to need to put money into your account.
"If you are ever asked, do not accept any money and contact police," he said.
Anyone who believes they are a victim of a scam or knows someone who has handed their money is asked to contact their local police station with urgency, Mr Blackman said.