Texting teens charged after allegedly scamming victims out of thousands

Police have busted an organised text scam ring, arresting two teenagers for allegedly fleecing up to $100,000 from each of their victims.

The pair, an 18-year-old and a 19-year-old, allegedly sent millions of fraudulent text messages to New Zealanders since November 2022. They are facing 22 charges each.

Police believe there are more people involved in the scam and further arrests are possible.

Detective Senior Sergeant Craig Bolton said the messages impersonated well-known and trusted establishments and were asking members of the public to send personal details.

“It’s estimated those involved had scammed some victims out of between $10,000-$100,000 after gaining access and control of their bank account,” Bolton said.

Police and the Department of Internal Affairs have been working together to crack down on the scammers under Operation Cargo.

Officers arrested two men, who were UK nationals, at an address in central Auckland yesterday after executing a search warrant.

The two men appeared in the Auckland District Court and will appear again. The 19-year-old has been remanded in custody, Bolton said.

During the police search, officers seized “a number of” laptops, phones, SIM cards and electronics which police alleged was consistent with running a fraudulent text message scam.

Bolton said: “We hope these arrests serve as a warning to potential scammers that New Zealand authorities will not tolerate this scam.

“Police and our partner agencies are committed to holding those who choose to engage in this type of offending to account.”

The Department of Internal Affairs’s (DIA) digital messaging and systems manager Joe Teo said the arrests were “the result of a year’s worth of cross-organisation collaboration from the DIA, CERT NZ, New Zealand telecom providers and banks.

“Through a joint effort we have identified and targeted multiple New Zealand and overseas nationals propagating the majority of scam messages in 2023 and exploiting our telecommunications infrastructure,” Teo said.

“The successful arrest of these two men demonstrates the value in working together in partnership to stop scammers in their tracks, and we congratulate our police colleagues on their efforts.

“We look forward to the upcoming release of DIA’s 2023 Digital MessagingTransparency Report in which we provide further context and detail about the mahi that we undertook together in 2023 that contributed to this outcome.”

Police asked the public to be vigilant about providing their personal information.

”Legitimate businesses will never call or text customers seeking confidential information,” Bolton said.

“Always be suspicious when you receive such requests."