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.
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.
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.
Commission recoups money for NZ trade mark holders - May 2016
The Commission has reached an interim agreement with TM Publisher, an overseas company who sent invoices for unsolicited services to New Zealand trade mark holders.
Under the interim court enforceable undertakings TM Publisher has agreed that anyone who paid the invoice from 6 April 2016 will be refunded directly by ANZ bank. TM Publisher’s bank account was frozen in March 2016. It contained over $200,000 in payments from New Zealand businesses. Read more here.
NZ trade mark holders warned about letters requesting payment – April 2016
The Commerce Commission is alerting businesses that they are under no obligation to pay an invoice being sent in the post by TM Publisher to New Zealand trade mark holders.
The invoice for $1,638 relates to an overseas trade mark registration service, which is not necessarily a service that the recipient has agreed to buy. Anyone who does not want the service has no obligation to pay the invoice. The Commission is investigating TM Publisher; a company based overseas which purports to offer a web-based trademark registration service. TM Publisher’s bank account has been frozen while decisions are made about how to deal with the $200,000 in payments that have already been made into the account by New Zealand businesses. 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.
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.
- MBIE provides some excellent resources on protecting your money and personal data from scams.
- Netsafe offers great advice for New Zealanders about staying safe online.
- DIA's Anti-Spam Unit provides advice on avoiding scams where individuals are contacted by email or phone.
- The Financial Markets Authority (FMA) has information about how to avoid scams and steps you can take to protect yourself.
- The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) provide resources on spotting and avoiding scams on their Scamwatch webpage which includes examples of scams that are circulating through Australasia.
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.