Thirteen Indians Arrested In Phone Scam Which Saw New Zealanders Lose Millions Of Dollars


AUCKLAND – Thirteen people have been arrested and police are actively searching for others following an investigation into an ongoing phone scam which has seen New Zealanders across the country lose millions of dollars.


Police have arrested 12 men and one woman, aged between 21 and 33, since July for money laundering, police said. Their cases are currently being heard in court. The arrests took place in Auckland, Hamilton and Napier.


It comes after the Auckland City fraud unit launched Operation Deadwood earlier this year after receiving reports of people who had lost tens of thousands of dollars after phone scammers convinced them to hand over money after claiming to be from Spark and/or the police, police said.


Police have received more than 100 reports over the past few months from victims across the country, totalling more than $2.5 million.

The figures are likely to be the tip of the iceberg, with police believing the actual number of victims to be several hundreds, Detective Sergeant Kevin Blackman said in a statement.


“We know there are victims that are either too embarrassed to report their losses or have directly contacted their banks rather than contact police, so we don’t know the exact scale of this offending,” Blackman said.


“The victims in these cases have often lost tens of thousands of dollars, with one victim losing around a quarter of a million dollars to the scammers.


“In many of these cases, the victims are told to download software from a website which has then given the scammers access to the victim’s computer, where they have unwittingly transferred funds out of the individual’s bank accounts.”


Police are now seeking the public’s help locating three men with warrants out for their arrest for money laundering.


The suspects – 24-year-old Manish Khan, 21-year-old Tushar Prabhakar, and 22-year-old Hitesh Sharma – are believed to be in the Auckland area, where they have links to South and East Auckland.


The men are known to frequent the Auckland Airport area and Auckland Central, including Sky City, Blackman said.


Despite warnings, police continue to receive reports of people falling victim to the scam, he said.


“We really need the community to help us spread the message to their friends and family, particularly the more vulnerable, elderly members of our community, to make sure they are also aware of this scam.


“This is an important reminder to never give your personal details over the phone to a stranger.


“A legitimate business or a member of the NZ Police will never ask for your bank details over the phone or ask you to transfer money.


“If you think a call may be suspicious, hang up immediately.


“If you have concerns about a call, ring the company back on their publicly listed number, not the number they have called you on, and alert them to the call you have just received.”