Police are urging the Central Otago community to remain vigilant following recent reports of some residents being scammed out of their hard-earned cash.
Scams via phone and internet have been prominent throughout the district over recent months, affecting people in towns including Ranfurly, Alexandra and Omakau.
Senior Constable Mike Colligan, of Alexandra Police, said in some cases people had lost large sums of money.
“People are paying money – it’s pretty heartbreaking,” he said.
“It’s New Zealand-wide, but we’ve been dealing with a number over the last couple of months.”
In some cases, people have received emails from what they believed to be a legitimate source, such as their phone company or bank.
The email provides the recipient with an invoice, complete with invoice number and account to put the money into.
Snr Const Colligan said it was important people did not follow the demands.
Instead, they should make contact with their phone company, or whoever the scammer was claiming to represent, to check if the amount owing on their account matched up.
If it did not, they should delete the email.
Snr Const Colligan said the older population appeared to be the ones scammers “preyed” on the most.
For many people it was difficult to differentiate between a legitimate or fake email or phone call, mainly because it seemed “so convincing”.
Scammers portrayed themselves as working for a legitimate company, such as Spark or their bank, which the person being scammed had regular legal dealings with.
The rule of thumb was to trust no-one.
Snr Const Colligan said the key to retrieving the money was to track it down before it left the country.
“Once it goes overseas, it’s gone.”