Warning over scammers impersonating finance regulator

Press release

New Zealand’s Financial Markets Authority (FMA) is warning about scammers impersonating officials from the FMA as part of a money transfer scam.

The FMA was contacted by a woman who transferred a significant amount of money from China to New Zealand, saying she and her family had been “stranded in New Zealand” due to COVID-19 and had needed the money for living expenses. 

She had seen an advertisement on a community news outlet offering money transfer services, and arranged the transfer via the WeChat phone app. The money was sent to a bank in Inner Mongolia.

However, when the money didn’t arrive in their designated bank account, the woman was told it had been “frozen” by the FMA due to money laundering suspicions. She was later phoned by a man posing as an FMA official, saying she would have to pay more to release the original sum – which she did.

Liam Mason, FMA Director of Regulation, said it was a troubling case, targeting those affected by the pandemic, and impersonating a government agency in order to steal more.

“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,” Mason said.

He said there are ways that people can protect themselves from scams such as these.

“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 asked anyone with information about the case, or any suspicious money transfer providers, to contact the FMA via questions@fma.govt.nz – in Chinese text if preferred.