Scams and alerts

One of the Commission’s roles is to enforce the Fair Trading Act, which prohibits misleading conduct and unfair selling practices by those 'in trade'.

The Commission is increasingly being contacted about potential 'scams'. An example of a scam we received complaints about is 'scratch and win' prizes sent by Malaysian 'travel agents'. The travel agents and prizes didn’t exist and consumers lost the money they sent to receive their prize.

See warnings from the Commission.

How do I avoid scams?

Where do I find more information about scams and how to avoid them?

Which scams does the Commerce Commission investigate?

If a scam is being run by an individual in a personal capacity rather than by an entity or person 'in trade' then it belongs with agencies such as the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) or Police to consider. For example an email sent to you from an unknown individual in Nigeria requesting you to move a large amount of money from a personal bank account is outside the Commission’s role.

A lot of scams are based off-shore and are often more difficult for the Commission to address or disrupt. One of the ways the Commission can help is by informing consumers about potential scams so that they can avoid them, and can tell their family and friends to avoid them.

We encourage people to contact the Commission with concerns about a scam or potential scam.

From time-to-time the Commission will issue a media release warning consumers about a scam or potential scam.

Scams and warnings

Corporate Portal New Zealand letters circulating again

The Commission has become aware that the Corporate Portal is targeting small business owners with unsolicited letters again after issuing a warning in August 2015.  

Business owners have been approached by post to update their details with the Corporate Portal and have reported being misled into entering an ongoing subscription contract. The letter urges businesses to complete their basic details by a deadline date or they will be removed from the Corporate Portal website. Once the business is signed up, the terms and conditions make it difficult to cancel, and the Corporate Portal says it reserves the right to increase the annual fee with no consultation.

More information can be found in our original media release.

The Companies Office in New Zealand (part of MBIE) has no connection with the Corporate Portal.

Warnings for trade mark holders

The Commerce Commission continues to receive reports from business owners who have been contacted by overseas companies providing trade mark publishing or registration services.

In the cases we have seen, businesses have received an unsolicited letter containing details of their registered trade mark and when it is due to expire taken from the New Zealand Intellectual Property Office (IPONZ). The letters generally provide a payment amount and details of how that payment can be made. Read more.

Online scam targets businesses selling machinery overseas – September 2016

The Commission is alerting small businesses to be careful of large goods orders where the buyer located overseas insists that a specific shipping company is used and shipping costs are pre-paid. In one instance that came to the attention of the Commission, a company was asked to pay shipping costs such as customs duty, insurance and taxes on the customer's behalf. However, the machine purchases were never fulfilled and the money they sent for shipping costs was unretrievable. 

The creation of fake shipping companies to issue pro-forma invoices is a strategy we have observed in the past. For example Direct Cargo Ltd is one name used for a shipping company in one of these scams. Consumers lost large deposits and paid imaginary insurance fees to release cars into their possession which the ‘seller’ never owned. Read more.

Online scams relating to buying vehicles and machinery – December 2015

The Commission reminds consumers to be careful and do their due diligence before transferring money overseas for the purchase of vehicles and machinery. There are reports of New Zealander’s losing large cash deposits or advancing cash for customs and/or insurance fees which do not exist. Read more

Direct Cargo Ltd is one name used for a shipping company in one of these scams. Consumers lost large deposits and paid imaginary insurance fees to release cars into their possession which the ‘seller’ never owned. Consumers should thoroughly research these ‘vehicle shipping companies’ before transferring any money to them. Read more.

Commission warns public about Blazing Whale and November Rain travel scratchie scams – November 2015

The Commerce Commission is warning the public to be wary of two travel scratchie scams being run from Malaysia and appearing in New Zealanders’ mail boxes. The scratchies being distributed by Blazing Whale Travel and November Rain Travel are the latest iterations of this on-going scam.

Read more

See more warnings from the Commerce Commission.

How do I avoid scams?

The old adage 'if it seems too good to be true, it probably is' still applies. Before disclosing your personal information or handing over money to an unfamiliar business, consumers should check thoroughly that they are dealing with a genuine business.

The Commission strongly recommends that consumers are not rushed into a decision and instead search for the seller online and talk to family and friends first. You should also check review sites, social media and websites like Scamwatch to see what other customers experienced.

Where do I find more information about scams and how to avoid them?

Other consumer fact sheets

Sometimes we find that the conduct being complained about is not technically a scam but rather a valid business engaging in misleading conduct or employing unfair selling practices. Either way, you do have rights as a consumer, and you can contact the Commission. You can learn more about your rights by reading the Commission’s fact sheets such as; buying and selling online, unfair sales techniques and pyramid selling.