Online messenger scam prompts caution

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Two Catholic bishops have become victims of an impersonation scam on Facebook messenger and have warned people not to fall for this dishonest scheme.

Auckland Bishop Patrick Dunn and Hamilton Bishop Stephen Lowe both had people inform them that scammers were asking for money on Facebook messenger pretending to be them.

“A person has copied this Facebook page and is asking for money to buy iTunes cards. This is clearly a scam,” Bishop Dunn said on his Facebook account. “If you have received this message from me, please do not reply, and delete it.”

Bishop Lowe stressed he has not and would not make such a request.

“I do not use messenger as Bishop Steve Lowe [does],” he said. “If in doubt, try a video call with the person, . . .  you will see it is not me.”

The facebook message asks a person to buy $300 worth of Itunes gift cards for someone supposedly sick with cancer.

Netsafe New Zealand senior marketing and communications advisor Angela Boundy said those who receive this message should immediately report it to whoever owns the platform, in this case, Facebook.

“Unfortunately, we don’t have the ability to track reports related to Facebook Messenger as we don’t capture that level of detail. The situation . . . appears to be a variation of a common impersonation scam,” she said.

“With this scam, the scammer takes or creates a fake account and impersonates a public figure. They often contact people claiming to need urgent help and money. Sometimes they might claim there is a prize or grant they are eligible for.”

Ms Boundy advised people to ignore the scammer’s message.

“If you’re unsure if an email is from a legitimate person, you may want to contact them to ask. If you do contact them, make sure you go through their official contact channels,” she said.

She also suggested doing an Internet search of the exact wording of the message as many scams can be identified this way.

She said the best way to avoid a scam is to:

•        Be alert to the fact these types of scams exist

•        Be wary of any requests for money or your personal information

•        Contact Netsafe for advice

“Netsafe can’t open investigations or track scammers, but we can offer support for people. This includes letting you know the steps you can take, depending on the scam, and giving you advice about how to stay safe,” she said.

To report an Internet scam, go to www.netsafe.org.nz/report .

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Rowena Orejana

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