All Blacks logo used by fake Canadian bank in suspected scam
A Canadian credit union website falsely claiming to be “the bank that backs the All Blacks” is one of a surge in suspected scams targeting investors in the Covid-19 era.
The Financial Markets Authority (FMA) has issued a warning about Virtual One Credit Union and its website, www.virtualonecunion.com, which purported to be regulated by the watchdog and under the jurisdiction of New Zealand law.
The website said the company offered home and personal loans, credit cards, investments and insurance. And in an apparent attempt to directly target Kiwis, it used an All Blacks logo and advertised it had a business relationship with the team.
NZ Rugby said neither it nor the All Blacks have ever had any current or past association with Virtual One Credit.
Other suspicious signs included the company’s claimed address for its Toronto head office being the location of a hospital and medical facility currently being used as a Covid-19 assessment centre.
An FMA spokesman told the Herald it was first alerted by the Financial Services Regulatory Authority of Ontario to the potential ruse. The Canadian agency advised the FMA the operators of the website are not registered as a credit union and are impersonating a former credit union which was based in the province.
The Virtual One Credit scheme is one of several as the number of imposter scams has increased significantly during the global pandemic, which has also seen an explosion of first-time investors.
Since February, the FMA has issued 23 warnings about impostor websites and reported a “steep rise” in investment scams claiming to be a legitimate New Zealand business.
From April 1 to November 5 last year, the FMA issued 61 warnings about investment scams, of which 21 were impostor scams, where the names and details of legitimate businesses, such as fake websites or social media accounts, were unlawfully used to trick investors.
In the same period during 2019, the government agency issued 40 warnings but only four were impostor scams.
Cryptocurrency was the most common type of investment scam, which nearly half of those targeted had been approached about, according to supplementary questions in the FMA’s annual investor confidence survey.
This was followed by investment software packages and seminars, and shares.
FMA research has also shown one in five Kiwis have been targeted by such cons.
Men were more likely to be approached by scammers than women, while one-third of those aged 70 or over reported being approached.
Email was found to be the most prominent method of approach, reported at 41 per cent, followed by social media at 26 per cent, and cold calling at 24 per cent.
But there is little the FMA can do in a global game of whack-a-mole against scammers because of a lack of jurisdiction.
“Investment scams are most commonly operated by overseas individuals and can attempt to exploit our country’s reputation by claiming they are regulated in New Zealand,” an FMA spokesman said.
When the regulator becomes aware of an investment scam targeting Kiwis or falsely claiming to be regulated in New Zealand it will look to issue a warning to help protect investors.
“These warnings are often shared with overseas regulators to raise awareness and often appear highly in search engine results.
“We endeavour to update our warnings if new information is provided but scammers are quick to move on and set up new websites.”
Last month, the watchdog also warned investors to be wary of impersonations of New Zealand-based derivatives issuer Rockfort Markets Ltd.
Websites www.rockfortmarket.net, www.rockfortcrypto.com, and www.rockfort-markets.com were found to be attempting to mimic the legitimate Rockfort Markets page www.rockfortmarkets.com.
It led to several complaints to the FMA about mainly overseas investors being scammed.
Signs of an impostor website
• Phone numbers or physical addresses are mixed up with local NZ contact details.
• The website domain name (the address you see when you check the address bar at the top of the browser) doesn’t seem to match the content of the website.
• The offer promises high returns, is unclear about what’s being offered and/or says it’s secure or guaranteed without details of how.
What consumers and investors can do
• Don’t use contact details from the website. Find the company’s phone number or email address from an independent source, such as a directory, and contact the business directly.
• Check any claims of being licensed or registered in NZ.
• Check the domain name, which can be done via dnc.org.nz for .nz domain names and ICANN’s WHOIS service for .com domain names.
What businesses can do
• Issue direct and public communications to clients/customers warning your business is being impersonated (such as posting on your social media pages).
• Report the case to a relevant government agency (FMA, CERT)
• Update your business’ details on Companies Office or the FSPR to warn about the scammers.
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