FMA Warns of Fraudsters Impersonating Regulator in COVID-19 Scam

There appears to be another financial scam targeting a regulator, with the Financial Markets Authority (FMA) of New Zealand warning consumers that fraudsters are attempting to impersonate the watchdog as part of a money transfer scam.

According to a statement from the Kiwi authority this Tuesday, the FMA was contacted on 5th August by a woman who had tried to transfer a significant amount of money from China and New Zealand.

The woman told the regulator that her family had been ‘stranded in New Zealand’ due to the coronavirus pandemic and that they needed the money for living expenses. According to the regulator, the woman had seen an advertisement on a community news outlet that offered money transfer services.

The money transfer was arranged via WeChat and sent to a bank in Inner Mongolia. However, the money transfer did not arrive as promised, and the victim was told that it had been ‘frozen’ by New Zealand’s FMA due to money laundering suspicions.

Following on from this, the woman was then contacted by the scammer, a man falsely posing as an FMA official. He contacted the victim claiming she would have to pay more money to release the original sum, which she did, the regulator said in the statement.

Commenting on the scam, Liam Mason, FMA Director of Regulation said in the statement: “We are trying to ascertain if the scammer is in New Zealand, as they appear to have had some local knowledge, and also if anyone else has been defrauded by them.”

He added that the new scam was troubling, as it targeted those affected by the coronavirus pandemic, and involved fraudsters impersonating a government agency to steal more money from victims.

“Be sure to only transfer money through businesses on New Zealand’s Financial Service Providers Register. Don’t fall for the scammers’ line that you must pay more money to release your original funds. And know that the FMA would never freeze money remittance or ask you to pay any money,” Mason added in the statement.

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