Sally Lin was just one semester in to a business degree at Auckland University of Technology (AUT) when she lost NZD $70,000 in a scam.
Sally arrived in New Zealand from China 10 years ago. She now has NZ residency but remains a Chinese citizen. Sally was tricked by a type of scam that is often targeted at Chinese students.
On June 14, Sally received an automated phone call which explained that a parcel that she had sent had been blocked by Customs in China. The options on the call led her to a real person who claimed to work at Auckland Airport. They said that the parcel she sent contained prohibited items, and that she would have to discuss the matter with the police in China.
Sally’s call was transferred to “police” in Kunming. She spoke with someone claiming to be “Officer Zhang” who sent her what he claimed was his work ID.
The scammer claiming to be Officer Zhang said that Sally’s parcel contained eight credit cards, and that the parcel was addressed to someone being investigated regarding an international money laundering case.
Sally explained that she did not send the parcel. In response Zhang explained that her identity may have been stolen.
The scammers also sent Sally a forged arrest warrant stamped by the Kunming City Court. They also said she must sign a “confidentiality agreement”, with the threat that she would go to jail for any breaches.
June – July 2021
Over the next month the scammers were in daily contact with Sally. In addition to ‘Officer Zhang’, the scammers also connected her with a fake “prosecutor”.
They pressured her to make large payments to “co-operate with the investigation”, and prove her innocence. They made three separate demands for payment:
- First they demanded a $20,000 bail bond. The scammers said this would be refunded if Lin was proved innocent. She was told to transfer the money to a Hong Kong bank account, which they said was controlled by the Hong Kong Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC).
- The next week, the fake prosecutor demanded that Sally pay a fine of $50,000 because for breaching the confidentiality agreement.
- In the fourth week the scammers asked Sally to pay a further $40,000 to prove that she was financially stable.
Sally had now savings, so she borrowed money from friends to make the payments. She also contacted her parents in China and lied about needing more money for her studies. Her Mum and Dad, who run a small business in Fujian, had to take out loans.
Payments of $50,000 to the scammers Hong Kong account were done through Kiwibank. According to Sally the bank did not ask any security questions. Media reports say that Kiwibank is investigating the incident.
The final payment was cancelled by ANZ, and the bank advised Sally that she had been scammed.
“It has turned my life upside down…”
Scams have a huge impact on the life of an international student and their family. Watch the video Sally describe what happened, why she was tricked, and how it has affected her.
What will Sally do now?
Sally used the money from her parents to partially pay back one friends, but other debts to friends remain unpaid. Her family also faces debts and interest payments in China.
She only has a few hundred dollars and may have to drop out of university.
Help yourself – don’t get scammed!
Scams like the one that tricked Sally are common. For example, Sally’s experience is very similar to a scam that tricked University of Waterloo student, Aaron Yau, out of CAD $100,000 in late 2020.
As an international student, the best way to protect yourself from scams is to ensure you understand the risks and warning signs.
Stay safe – by taking the free course on ‘Scams Targeting International Students‘ today.
It could save you from becoming a victim of a scam.
Source: This story was originally reported by Lucy Xia on Stuff