This sounded like a good idea – so we went along to see what it was all about. The seminar was held locally in historic Thompson House, which was built in 1922 as a doctor’s residence and surgery for Dr John Gow and his wife Maysie, also a doctor. Dr Gow retired early due to ill health, and Dr Jim Thompson took over the practice and bought the house, living there from 1926 until he passed away in 1973. The property was then purchased by the Levin Borough Council in 1974 and is used by various groups in the community for meetings. Several volunteers were busy tending to the large garden when we arrived for our meeting.
The Scam Savvy Seminar was run by Bank of New Zealand staff members, including a couple of members from their Fraud Investigation Branch. Scams come thick and fast in several forms, by e-mail, post, telephone, over the internet and door to door. Scammers promise great prizes, easy money and even true love. But before they deliver anything, they will ask for money to be sent, or bank account and credit card numbers to be provided. The aim is to steal money and personal details.
The speaker gave us one example after another how their bank customers have fallen for various scams and lost money to various scams. Sadly, it seems that the elderly seem particularly vulnerable, probably because they are more trusting and believe what they are told. It was interesting to learn that the BNZ have a dedicated Fraud Investigation Branch which work 24/7, so presumably the other banks have similar teams. There are a whole lot of baddies out there in the big wide world, and the scammers are well versed in using the latest technology to do their work. Like the police, the fraud teams seem to be playing catch-up with the crooks, and lagging one step behind.
It was a very interesting seminar, and we got to check out some counterfeit bank notes – it’s hard to tell the difference at a glance. So perhaps it is just as well that the Reserve Bank has just announced that new bank notes will shortly be in circulation. New security features include a colour-changing bird, a holographic window and a puzzle number - coloured irregular shapes on the front and the back, which combine like puzzle pieces to show the note's denomination.