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NZ Internet cafe gang fleece thousands world-wide
A gang of New Zealand based cyber criminals are successfully stealing thousands of US dollars world-wide from online investors by using internet cafes to hide their identities from authorities.
Crime.co.nz would like to thank Mark Halliday for the contribution of this article.

April 2002: Dubbed 'The NZ Robbers' by online gold-game and high yield investors, the group is believed to have netted tens-of-thousands of US dollars since first appearing early last year.

Using cyber cafes to spam, (mass email) thousands of known internet investors, the gang offers returns of 180% plus in just 12 days, on a $30US minimum to $5000US maximum deposit.

Of course, investors never see a return on their funds, and any request for a refund is ignored.

Additionally, any attempt to track the scammers down through their internet service provider is quickly thwarted when the victims realize the offending ISP belongs to a New Zealand internet café used by hundreds daily.

Utilising cleverly worded web-sites, the scammers claim to be a group of investors who pool their money into successful high yield programs both off and online.

'In the investment industry you need money to make money,' The spiel on one of their web-sites claim. 'The rich excel in investing because they have the capital to take advantage of the opportunities.

Our payout structure is most capable of keeping our investment strategy at it's peak allowing you to see a instant return for your investment.

When you join The Atrium you have the opportunity to loan us money to increase the size of the pool. The larger the pool, the more we can diversify,' Their web-site declares.

Recently, the gang added a new twist in their arsenal of deception, successfully enticing even more online investors to part with their money.

Their latest advertisement proclaims that anyone who invests $150US or more in their latest scheme, Euro Investment Trust, will receive an anonymous debit card free of charge. The card will supposedly enable investors to withdraw their profits secretly through any ATM machine, thus avoiding tax.

But of course, no-one ever receives a debit card, and the 'NZ Robbers' continue to ride a wave of US dollars - while seemingly laughing at law enforcement officials world-wide who appear unable to stop them.

Apparently, this type of scam is so common in New Zealand, that when the Business Editor of a leading NZ newspaper was contacted by the author of this article, the following was the surprising response:

'This appears to be similar to stories we have already published about Kiwis involved in international investor scams,' James Weir, of the Dominion said. 'They come up regularly I'm afraid. We get these sort of stories through official channels and from victims every few months.'

According to Eric Gaithman, President of Gaithmans Gold Nation, an online e-currency exchange service, the 'NZ Robbers' have not had everything their own way.

'The individuals in question attempted to transfer funds through my company by way of a currency-to-currency conversion,' Mr. Gaithman said.

'It is our policy to telephone all first time clients, and it is obvious the moment we pick up the phone who is legitimate and who is attempting to mask their identity or location.

'These people supplied a bogus telephone number. So, of course, we were not about to transfer their money.'

With their stolen funds sitting in limbo, the cyber crooks began a campaign of threats and accusations towards Gaithmans.

'All the details supplied by these individuals contained bogus contact information.,' Mr. Gaithman said. 'Once we attempted to verify their information with the e-mail addresses they provided on their order form, the numerous threats began to arrive,'

According to Mr. Gaithman, the harassment included mass emailing a million people with lies about his company in an attempt to bankrupt his business.

'Each threat always came accompanied by a demand for a pay off. If we agreed to pay their ransom demands, they indicated that they would leave us alone. They also indicated that they were successful in "ruining" or "destroying" other services in the past with their tactics, but did not specify the names of any company's that had paid them off.

'Since Gaithmans is a small family owned business, we do not have the financial resources to pay off such demands.'

Mr. Gaithman stated that any individuals who attempt to scam or defraud his company immediately lose Client Status and all protections therein, adding that in doing so they also give their de facto consent for Gaithmans staff to cooperate with Law Enforcement Agencies.

Director of the New Zealand, Serious Fraud Office, Mr. David Bradshaw, said the scheme run by these individuals had all the hallmarks of a straightforward PBI (Prime Bank Instrument) fraud.

'The Serious Fraud Office has been warning the public about such schemes for a number of years,' Mr. Bradshaw said.

'The fact that this scheme is operated on the Internet ought to sound warning bells to potential investors.

'There is no information about where the money will be invested, nor are there any significant details about who the potential investor is dealing with. Those are matters that a prudent investor would want to be assured about. That the returns promised are well above the ordinary ought to put any potential investor on their guard.

According to Mr. Bradshaw, the Telecommunications Privacy Code for New Zealand allows for individuals to maintain anonymity when dealing with telecommunication agencies - under the Code of Practice for the Protection of Personal Information of Customers of Telecommunications Providers (Australia). Not surprisingly, the Serious Fraud Office has questioned the inclusion of such a provision in the New Zealand Code.

'Regrettably, greed tends to cloud the better judgement of some people, allowing fraud to succeed whether that be via the Internet or otherwise,' Mr. Bradshaw concluded.

John Nester, of the United States Securities and Exchange Commission, agreed, adding that investors should never base an investment decision solely on anonymous information on the Internet, just as you wouldn't base an investment decision based on graffiti on a rest room wall.

'You don't know the authors and you don't know their motives, much less their honesty,
experience or expertise,' Mr. Nester said.


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Dubbed 'The NZ Robbers' by online gold-game and high yield investors, this group is believed to have netted tens-of-thousands of US dollars since first appearing early last year.

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