Hanging up on the scammers

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Alexandra man Colin McKay is calling for people to be wary of scams after he was targeted five times in the past fortnight. He talks to The News to help raise awareness.
ALEXIA.JOHNSTON@alliedpress.co.nz

Alexandra resident Colin McKay refuses to bow to scammers’ persistent requests.
‘ It’s getting to a stage where having a phone line is a liability. ,
calls in the past fortnight from people claiming to work for Spark.
The person at the other end of the phone explains the call is a recorded message and that the service can assist with his internet problems.
Mr McKay said he always cuts the call short by hanging up.
The calls, which are usually made just before noon or 6pm, have included both male and female voices in the recordings.
‘‘I don’t go beyond that, I’m afraid,’’ Mr McKay said, when asked to elaborate on what else the messages have said.
‘‘I just hang up because Spark wouldn’t communicate with me in that fashion, I don’t believe.
‘‘The last one said we have been trying to contact you,’’ he said.
‘‘When you pick the phone up there’s silence. It used to be when you got calls of the same nature, you would get background noises and it gave you the impression there was a bank of people there.
‘‘[But, lately] there’s been dead silence and it might be five seconds or so before you get the message and they have all been ‘This is a recorded message from Spark’.’’
Mr McKay, who is a Spark customer, said he was not fooled by the calls, but was concerned that other people could be.
‘‘Some people, I would think, would be intimidated by that [kind of call].’’
He said it was concerning that such calls were circulating throughout Central Otago — and wider New Zealand.
‘‘It’s getting to a stage where having a phone line is a liability.’’
Mr McKay’s main concern was for the older generation of phone customers who might not know how to handle calls of that nature.
Spark has highlighted the issue of scams on its website.
It explains what scams are circulating under the guise of Spark, and conversational lines some of those scammers have been known to use, including ‘‘I’ve received a report that you’re experiencing slow internet’’, or ‘‘I understand you’ve had fibre installed so we need to run some tests’’.
Police have raised their concerns throughout the year about the amount of scams circulating.
The Central Otago community, in particular, was encouraged to remain vigilant following recent reports of some residents being scammed out of their hard­earned cash.
Scams that had been prominent throughout the district over recent months were being fielded via phone and the internet, which had affected people in towns including Ranfurly, Alexandra and Omakau.
Earlier this year a police spokesman said in some cases people had lost large sums of money.
The Commission for Financial Capability (CFFC), an independent government­funded organisation, has trialled a call-blocking device, called trueCall, that prevents scammers and unwanted callers from harassing landline owners.
The machines block all recorded messages, silent calls and calls from numbers not pre-identified bythe homeowner.
Spokeswoman Estelle Sarney said the trial was successfully completed at the end of last year and they contacted the main telecommunications companies to recommend providing the units to vulnerable customers, ideally for free.
Fraud education manager Bronwyn Groot said Spark had begun offering an alternative unit to customers, which was ‘‘a good step in the right direction’’, but at present CFFC was not recommending this unit as it was more complex and potentially confusing for customers.
Instead they were sticking behind trueCall as their recommended device, she said.
★ For more information about scams visit: spark.co.nz/scamalerts or netsafe.org.nz/advice/scams/