‘Tricked’: man loses $40,000 to fraudsters

Wanaka’s Jason Clarke is promoting awareness of online fraud after being scammed of $40,000 in...
Wanaka’s Jason Clarke is promoting awareness of online fraud after being scammed of $40,000 in November. PHOTO: MARJORIE COOK
A Wānaka sports massage therapist rues the moment he opened an email last year that resulted in fraudsters draining $40,000 from his bank account.

Two months on, Jason Clarke — with the support of his partner Abby, parents Paul and Jane, and friends — now accepts he has lost his deposit for a house.

Last year’s Dancing with the Locals winner and charity fundraiser said he was feeling better and wanted to tell his story in the hope other people could avoid being scammed.

"I’m embarrassed and feel ashamed that this has happened to me.

"I have been tricked and taken advantage of by investing my money into a legitimate company that has been hacked.

"Despite this being totally out of my control, I feel lost and unsure of what to do next."

Mr Clarke clarified his experience was different from that of a BNZ customer reported this week who was defrauded of $41,000 after responding to an email purporting to be from his bank and sharing his banking password.

Mr Clarke was intending to invest in a bitcoin training company called Bybit but said he was duped by a mirrored platform that mimicked the Bybit site.

At no stage did he share his banking password.

His downfall was clicking on a hyperlink sent in an email.

"I was under the impression I was investing money [into Bybit].

"Somehow, through a sophisticated programme ... the fraudsters/scammers were able to send me a message from a person called Anna who I thought was from the Bybit company.

"[She] then sent me a link to an investment company for trading purposes, which I now know to be fake and does not exist."

He invested last August and when he checked the website, it showed his funds were trading, so he thought it was real.

He noticed his deposit was still showing "in progress" and tried to withdraw his funds in November.

"They were able to get more and more funds from me.

"The head manager of support, Martin, [said] I had a margin call alert and [was] locked out of my account and [was] asking for money for insurance to unlock it.

"I tried to withdraw money out of my account but the status still showed ‘in progress’, so I thought, ‘that’s not right’.

"[I] tried to contact help support but with no reply.

"That’s when I realised that I was scammed and started the process of going [to] the police and reporting it ."

Mr Clarke had contacted his bank, the real Bybit website and Netsafe NZ, which said he appeared to have engaged with a bogus investment service operated by scammers.

"Police say it was a very sophisticated operation and they couldn’t see any difference between legitimate transactions [and] fake ones, so are unable to take further action.

"I have laid a formal request through the [Serious Fraud Office], who are conducting an investigation.

"However, it is unlikely I will be able to get any of my investment money back through these channels."

Been scammed?

Here’s what to do. —

Police: Call 105 or report online if you think you or someone you know has been the victim of an online scam, fraud, abuse and harassment or other criminal activity.

Netsafe NZ: Call toll-free on 0508 NETSAFE (0508 638 723); email help@netsafe.org.nz; complete an online contact form or text Netsafe (4282) to report online incidents, including unsolicited emails (phishing) and online trading complaints.