Most New Zealanders are straight up, honest people and that is a great way to be. Unfortunately not everyone is quite so scrupulous. Here at Cuningham Taylor we have had a number of clients tell us that they have been targeted by scams recently.
One particular scam that has been brought to our attention involves individuals claiming to be from Inland Revenue calling people on the phone to tell them they have an outstanding tax bill or are being investigated for tax fraud. The caller requests personal information including the person’s IRD number, and often threatens them with legal action. In some cases people are advised that they must pay a debt immediately or face going to jail. Sometimes the scammers will leave a voicemail, providing a phone number for the person to return their call.
Hamish Taylor, Partner at Cuningham Taylor, says that these scammers are preying on the general public’s fear of getting in trouble with government agencies such as Inland Revenue.
“If you are unsure whether or not a call is genuine, take the caller’s name and number and then tell them you will call them back when it is more convenient. If they claim to be from an organisation such as Inland Revenue, contact that organisation directly via their official website or phone line to check what you have been told,” advises Hamish.
Along with phone scams, phishing email scams are becoming more and more prevalent. Many of these will appear to contain an official logo, such as that of Inland Revenue, to fool people into believing that they are genuine. Inland Revenue states that it will never advise customers that they are due a tax refund via email, nor will they ask for payment over the telephone. It is also worth noting that if you deal through a tax agent the Inland Revenue will not be contacting you directly.
Other scams to watch out for include a bogus trademark renewal scam, where businesses receive letters requesting payment for services relating to renewal, registration, publication or monitoring of patents or trademarks. Once again these scammers may try to create the impression that they represent an official organisation.
The Department of Internal Affairs has a useful website, which has details of some known scams.
Hamish recommends treating any emails, letters or phone calls from unfamiliar organisations, especially requesting payment for unsolicited services, with caution.
If you think you have been targeted by a scammer and would like legal advice, please contact Hamish or another member of the Cuningham Taylor team.