Bhutanese people living in Nelson have been caught up in a phone scam targeting vulnerable former refugees.
The Department of Internal Affairs is warning migrants to beware of a scam artist that appears to be targeting the Bhutanese communities in Christchurch, Nelson and Palmerston North, wrote Fairfax NZ News, Tuesday.
The caller introduced himself as being from the non-existent Asian Minority Group of Internal Affairs in Wellington and says he can provide citizenship, according to the report.
It further mentioned that he told them to pay money to a Nepalese account through Western Union, a money transfer service, to cover document transfer fees.
Internal Affairs general manager for regulatory and compliance operations, Maarten Quivooy, said the department had received several calls about the scam.
“The phoney caller appears to know detailed information about the families he is ringing and explains that he can provide citizenship,” he said.
“One person made two payments via Western Union of $984 and $485. We’re advising people who have called us that there is no such group in the department and not to pay any money.”
Nelson Refugee Services manager Gabrielle Humphreys said two Bhutanese families in Nelson had been caught up in the scam, but quick action was taken with volunteer support to close their bank accounts.
“I don’t think there was too much damage. Some families in Christchurch and Palmerston North have been targeted over several weeks. The scary thing is the scam person had personal details of these people,” she said.
Refugee Services chief executive Heather Hayden said former refugees were vulnerable people who came to New Zealand to build a new life and obtaining citizenship was an extremely significant part of that process for them.
“To exploit that particular element is shocking and absolutely reprehensible,” she said.