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Overseas scams bilk Samoans of $500,000, bank says

Scams are on the rise. This week, the Central Bank of Samoa says Samoans have lost more than $500,000 to foreign con artists over the past five years.

The Bank’s Financial Institutions Department ACEO, Gilbert Wongsin says he can safely say more than 50 cases have been referred to the CBS during the last 24 months.

This week, the Samoa Money Laundering Prevention Authority (SMLPA) issued a public notice warning people of such scams.

CBS Governor and the head of SMLPA, Maiava Atalina Ainu’u-Enari says the “Central Bank is seriously concerned over the increased number of scam cases brought to its attention.

“Regarding Samoan residents being lured into believing that he or she is expecting to receive large sums of money from unknown sources communicated through the internet, emails or mobile phones.

“And, with the improved and sophisticated application of modern computer and electronic technologies, the risk of Samoan residents and businesses becoming victims of these fraudulent activities has also increased.”

Maiava wished to remind the public again that letters, emails or mobile phone messages, offering commissions or rewards on uncollected millions of dollars, or lotto winnings from overseas, or requesting for monetary assistance, are nothing but scams.

“Unfortunately, there are reports of some local people who have been adversely affected by these scams and have lost quite large sums of money,” she says.

“In most of these cases, all the victim has to do is to take care of the endless fees these perpetrators or scammers come up with to cover for things like taxes, lawyer fees, insurance premiums or bank fees and he or she will reap millions in return. Usually, the fraudster demands urgency and confidentiality.

“In some cases, the fraudster requested the money to be sent through a Money Transfer Operator which he/she believes is the fastest and easiest way to send money.”

SMLPA therefore advises the public to be alert and vigilant with these types of messages or proposals.

“The perpetrators are professionals,” Maiava warns.

“They will go to any length to produce fake letterheads, invoices, cheques, personal letters or hack into email addresses to make their scams look convincing.

“In this regard, the Central Bank, and also the Money Laundering Prevention Authority, again strongly reminds members of the public to consult the Central Bank first before making any commitment in response to these fraudulent proposals or correspondence from overseas.

“Remember, it is a breach of the prevailing Foreign Exchange legislations to participate and send funds overseas as payment for these illegal activities.”

Mr Wongs in says the unfortunate part of this is that even well-educated people get pulled in and tricked by such scams.

He said while banks do catch some of the transactions before they are completed and warn the customer about scams, some customers still believe them to be a genuine transaction.

“The challenge with this issue is that there are some gullible people out there who are well educated people,” said Mr Wongsin.

“And they think they have stuck a deal that is genuine and they have been involved with it from the start and they will insist on trying to remit this money.

“The customer is claiming that this is a genuine transaction between himself and the beneficiary that he is sending the money to.

“And he will always try to find a way to send that money.”

He said it was through the financial institutions such as the banks and money transfer operators that the CBS was able to monitor this type of fraudulent activity.

“The financial institutions will report it to us as a suspicious transaction or as a scam that has been identified during the transaction with the customer on the counter,” he said.

“But some of the cases they have later identified given the pattern of remittance that have gone through being reported to us as suspicious transactions.

“Cases such as these are referred to us by these financial institutions and also individuals who have been referred to us by these institutions.”



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