More education needed to combat scammers preying on Pacific communities

Ngā Tāngata Microfinance and Child Poverty Action Group applauds the Commerce Commission and the Financial Markets Authority for identifying and addressing the growing issues with scammers and fraudsters in our Pacific communities.

The joint-campaign will raise awareness around financial scams in Pasifika communities and will include advertisements run on Pacific language radio stations.

Natalie Vincent, Ngā Tāngata Microfinance general manager says the scammer scourge has a serious flow-on effect on vulnerable families, as it can force whānau into high-interest debt and hardship.

"It is critical that the education around issues such as scammers, predatory lending and network marketing schemes is targeted and equitable," she says.

"We are especially concerned about the growing prevalence of ‘affinity fraud’, where trusted networks and communities are used to sell fraudulent products."

"We know that shame and embarrassment about financial problems means people often won’t reach out for help, or even realise that help is available.

"More education is needed around safe investment and safe credit. So we can have a more financially informed and inclusive society."

Dr Claire Dale, spokesperson for Child Poverty Action Group, says that the COVID-19 crisis has put added strain on family finances that were already precarious, putting the wellbeing of their children at greater risk.

"It is vitally important that agencies such as the Commerce Commission and FMA take these and more proactive measures," she says.

"We are aware that many families in low income communities can be juggling high-interest debts of between $20k and $60k.

"Debts of this size become unmanageable very quickly, and then are likely to induce further risky behaviour. This makes many in these communities’ easy targets for scammers."

Vincent says more also needs to be done to police scammers.

"We would like to see harsher penalties and more funding towards enforcement, to ensure that scammers cannot maintain their stranglehold in our poorest communities."