Indian students receiving extortion calls in New Zealand

Indian students living in New Zealand are being targeted by callers posing as immigration officials demand thousands of dollars, prompting authorities to warn the Indian nationals not to fall into the trap.

Melbourne: Indian students living in New Zealand are being targeted by callers posing as immigration officials demand thousands of dollars, prompting authorities to warn the Indian nationals not to fall into the trap.

The scammers use a practice known as "caller ID spoofing" to make it appear as though they are calling from an official government department number.

The callers claim to be calling from Immigration New Zealand and tell the person there has been a problem with the processing of their visa or arrival card information.

They then demand money be paid into a Western Union account in India, The New Zealand Herald reported.

The callers were aggressive and authoritative, said the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment, and often had details about the person they were speaking to, which made the call seem genuine.

Over a lakh Indian-origin people are residing in New Zealand.

Saritha Annapureddy, an Indian lost almost all her savings after being scammed out of more than USD 4,000, it reported.

"Initially when I received the call I thought it's a fake call. I mean some friend is playing prank with me," she said.

The call was from someone pretending to be from Immigration New Zealand, and Annapureddy was told she had not filled in her arrival card incorrectly and had to pay fees or be deported immediately.

The man told her to transfer money via Western Union for lawyers' and documentation fees.

"I had to believe them because the number was exactly the Auckland Immigration number with a zero difference," she said.

Annapureddy was on the phone for four hours until she paid, as she was told if she hung up it would be another criminal offence.

Immigration New Zealand has been aware of the scam since mid-2013, but a new wave of fake phone calls has prompted the ministry to give further warnings.

"Under no circumstances will Immigration New Zealand telephone a client and ask them for money," a spokesperson said.