Scammed: Couple rattled after losing half their savings to fraudster

Chris and Sandy Van der Vegte received the “shock of their life” when they realised over half of their savings had been withdrawn from their bank account.

Earlier this week, Sandy Van der Vegte, 59, received a phone call from a man claiming to be a Spark technician.

She was told a person had hacked into her internet connection and devices.

However, the man on the phone was a scammer.

After speaking with her for a few minutes, the scammer gained remote access to her desktop.

“He was able to walk into the computer screen,” is how Van der Vegte described it to the Herald.

While talking Van der Vegte through graphs and other statistics on her desktop, he pretended to show her that the “scammer” was hacking into her device and internet connection from California.

Van der Vegte said the phone call was “very believable” as he stated he was a Spark technician and was able to provide a security number.

After over an hour on the phone, the scammer asked for Van der Vegte’s bank account details.

At first she said no, however after pressure and reassurance from the man on the phone, she opened up a tab on her desktop to her internet banking.

Van der Vegte told the Herald the bank details automatically came up on the screen.

“I typed [my] password but could not remember [the] code then [I] had to apply for new code and was manipulated into typing in the new code,” she said.

Van der Vegte said she felt “stupid” and “not comfortable” with giving out her banking details.

After an hour and a half on the phone the scammer was able to gain access to her bank account after seeing Van der Vegte put in details from her end.

Ten minutes later, she received a phone call from her bank asking her whether the couple authorised four large amounts of money to be withdrawn from their account.

Kiwibank told her “within a minute” $8,100 was withdrawn from the Māngere couple’s account.

This is when the Van der Vegtes realised they had been scammed.

Chris Van der Vegte told the Herald said he felt sick when he realised half of their savings had been stolen by the scammer.

“I didn’t sleep, it was shocking,” he said.

After realising what had just happened, Van der Vegte unplugged the desktop, turned the Wi-Fi off and hung up the phone.

However, the scammer tried to contact her another four times through her landline and her mobile phone.

“I never once thought it was a scam, they were pretty legit and calm in trying to get information out of you.”

Chris says he and his wife are “lucky” to have received the scammed money back from Kiwibank.

The Van der Vegtes said they had never heard of this type of scam and wanted to warn others about it.

“Never give out your passwords, no matter how legit they sound,” said Van der Vegte.

“Don’t do anything like it, when they ring up put the phone down and say goodbye,” Chris added.

A Spark spokesperson told the Herald scammers often pretended to be from companies like Spark to “trick or intimidate people into handing over personal information”.

“The most important thing to remember is Spark will never call customers out of the blue to ask for personal details like bank account, credit card, or internet banking details, or to request access to your personal computer or laptop.”

Netsafe states on its website that tech support scammers often tried to gain “remote access” which allows the scammer to access the caller’s device.

If people receive an unexpected call from someone claiming to be from Spark, they are asking people to end the call immediately and report the scam to [email protected]

If you give remote access, Netsafe says:

• Turn off your computer and disconnect your device from the internet immediately.

• Change all your passwords using a different device so the scammers can’t use your account.

• Run a full security scan to see if there is any new malware.

• Notify your bank.

• If you’re still concerned that something may have been loaded onto your device, disconnect it from the internet and do not log back on until you have had your hard drive reformatted and operating system reinstalled.

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