Hospital Foodmarket owner Raj Patel. PHOTOS/TOM TAYLOR
Dairy owner’s quick thinking stops scammer
A Masterton dairy owner helped to foil scammers aggressively targeting an elderly man and his friend.
Hospital Foodmarket owner Raj Patel knew that something was wrong when he noticed a lady’s hand shaking as she tried to process an international money transfer for her friend, totalling about $930.
An elderly man had received a phone call on Wednesday from someone claiming to be a Spark technician.
The man did not understand what the caller was saying, so he passed the phone to his friend.
The caller said that someone had been hijacking the man’s computer and using a large amount of data overnight.
He said that ‘Spark’ wanted to catch them.
The caller also threatened to cut off the man’s email.
“I thought, oh God, we don’t need that,” the man’s friend said.
The caller said that to help catch the hijackers, the friend would need to transfer some money overseas.
He said he would transfer her some money as a reward.
“I didn’t think anything of that, because I knew that we hadn’t given any bank account details or anything like that,” she said.
However, she said the caller was very persuasive and had worn her down.
“There was real pressure to get the money out and transfer it to the overseas account.”
Patel said that the lady came into his store asking to transfer money to someone in Nepal.
The store was equipped to make international transfers through Ria Money Transfer – a company similar to Western Union.
“While I was getting her details, I saw that her hand was shaking,” Patel said.
“Not vibrating – shaking.”
Before Patel finalised the transaction, he tried to warn the lady.
“I hope it is your family or friends you are sending it to, and you are not getting any fake calls,” he said.
Five minutes after she had left, Patel received a phone call from her, asking for a pin number that would enable the receivers to pick up the money.
“The first question for me was, how did she know she needed a pin number to get the cash?”
After another five minutes, he received another phone call. This time it was from the scammers.
When Patel asked who they were, they gave the lady’s name. However, Patel said that it was a man’s voice on the end of the line.
The scammer then changed approach and told Patel that he was the receiver of the funds.
At this point, Patel had enough suspicions that he called Ria Money Transfer and asked them to hold the transaction.
He also attempted to call the lady several times but could not get through.
In hindsight, he thought that the scammers were probably keeping her on the line and telling her not to hang up. Concerned when he could not reach the lady, Patel had contacted the non-emergency police line.
Later that night, a friend of the lady had contacted Detective Constable Matt Wailling, who immediately recognised the story as a scam.
“I just got on the phone straight away at that point and spoke to Ria, identifying myself as a police officer.”
Wailling said that because the lady had never passed the pin number on to the scammers, she was able to retrieve the money in full – about $930.
“What is interesting, or concerning, is that they actually told her where to go,” Wailling said.
He said that this did not necessarily indicate that they were based locally; they could have simply searched online for money transfer locations.
However, there was a possibility that the scammers were targeting locals.
“It’s obviously quite easy to just come by a whole list of phone numbers and start working through all the numbers with 06.”
After she left the dairy, the scammers had attempted to contact the lady about 35 times.
While Wailling was with the lady, her phone rang again. However, this time, it was the police call centre, calling to check on her.
“Between us, we managed to authenticate that we were both police officers, and were able to close the loop there,” Wailling said.
He had since visited banks, warning them to be vigilant for the scam.
On Friday morning, the lady received another call from someone pretending to be a Spark technician.
“I just hung up,” she said.