December 11, 2023

‘I feel violated’: ‘Kind, empathetic’ scammer who seemed ‘legit’, steals $12k from Kiwi woman

Watch: Kiwi woman tells AM about being scammed $12,000 out of her BNZ account.

A Kiwi woman who was scammed out of $12,000 says the scammer seemed “legit” and conned his way through a phone conversation with her.

Shelley Fitzpatrick received a phone call from an unknown number at 3pm on Saturday. The caller was a well-spoken British man saying he was from BNZ.

She told AM on Tuesday the conversation lasted around 10 to 12 minutes and it was a “slow burn” – which is the reason why she got scammed.

Fitzpatrick revealed to AM fill-in co-host Michael O’Keeffe how the phone call played out.

She said the person talking to her was a “really lovely gentleman” with a calm, kind voice who said someone was trying to access her bank account.

“He knew my name, my address, he even knew the name of my husband, which was odd. He said somebody was taking money out right now as we were speaking, so obviously, that gives you a bit of panic,” she said.

“I looked at my banking app and there were no notifications or any transactions coming off and I thought that was weird.”

Fitzpatrick questioned the scammer about this, but he said he had stopped the transaction and reversed it before claiming more money was coming out of her bank account.

“I started getting panicked as you do and he said all I need is your email address and I can stop them,” she explained.

“So I looked at my husband and my husband went, ‘Well, it seems legit.'”

But before Fitzpatrick knew it, the scammer was in her bank account and had her access number.

“He told me to delete my banking app because they were in my banking app apparently, and while I was on the phone with him, the real BNZ phoned me to tell me he had taken $12,000 of our whole savings. So that was our entire savings out of my banking account,” she said.

Fitzpatrick said a BNZ customer service person knew exactly who the scammer was and luckily was able to return all the money she had lost.

“He said, ‘Okay, I’m going to try my best to get it back for you’. Because obviously, we were in a state of shock, almost catatonic if I’m honest… and 20 minutes went by and I started thinking that maybe he was part of the scam because it just had been so long,” she said.

“So we started freaking out a little bit and within 20-25 minutes, he had phoned me back and told me he had got the money back for me.”

Fitzpatrick said she had the phone call on loudspeaker, with her husband and seven-year child in the room, with the scammer even talking to her kid.

“It was a lot at the beginning, not really asking me for anything. He was sort of setting up the panic that there were transactions going through. He was caring for me,” she told AM.

“He even spoke to my seven-year-old, which is quite a violation because I had him on loudspeaker and my seven-year-old had said, ‘A bad guy is trying to take our money mum’ and he said ‘Don’t worry, son, I’m looking after it’. I was just like what a lovely man… so it was a slow burn. It wasn’t quick, which I think is probably half of the reason why I got scammed.”

Fitzpatrick said she felt violated and a fool as there were a lot of red flags, but at the time, she didn’t notice them.

“I feel like an idiot, obviously, and I think that’s the power these people wield because people don’t want to come and talk about it because you feel like such a fool,” she said.

“You don’t want other people to think you’re a fool, but at the end of the day, if I can help one person with this video that doesn’t get scammed, I feel like it’s worth it and I don’t want to give them any more power, they’ve already taken so much.”

Fitzpatrick isn’t the only Kiwi to be caught up in the latest scam circulating in New Zealand involving BNZ customers.

Stuff has reported, Savannah Jackson lost $42,000, Christchurch man Neil Shewan had $37,300 cleaned out of his account while he was on holiday in Singapore, Geoff McCaull of Mt Maunganui lost $15,000 last month and Napier man Gordon Chisholm lost $50,000.

New Zealand banks are a common target for scammers, with data showing customers have lost $183.5 million to scams from October 2021 to September 2022 – a 40 percent increase from the previous year.

A BNZ spokesperson told AM Kiwis shouldn’t click on any links or open attachments from someone they don’t know.

The spokesperson said urgency is a red flag, encouraged Kiwis to keep their phone and computer security up to date and told Kiwis to trust their gut, “If it feels wrong it probably is”.

Banks haven’t been the only victims of scams. At the end of last month, Inland Revenue Department issued a warning over a new phone scam which asked Kiwis to update their details to process a payment.

BNZ scam tips:

  • Don’t click on links or open attachments sent by someone you don’t know or seem out of character for someone you do know. Hover over links to reveal the actual site.
  • If it doesn’t seem right, call the sender using contact details you already have or that are available on their public website.
  • Urgency is a red flag – scammers will try to rush you.
  • Banks will never ask for your bank account details, password or pin number, nor will they send you an email or text message with a link asking you to log in.
  • Keep your computer and phone security software up to date.
  • If you think you’ve been scammed, contact your bank immediately.
  • Trust your gut – if it feels wrong, it probably is.

Watch the full interview with Shelley Fitzpatrick in the video above.

Would you like to receive notifications on latest updates? No Yes