The Ministry of Police has issued a stern warning to the public to be vigilant following a fraudulent scam that successfully targeted two local churches to the tune of $200,000.
Acting Assistant Police Commissioner, Sala’a Moananu Sala’a told the Sunday Samoan, a man who goes by the names of Jeremy Bulu or Michael Toki, allegedly stole the money from two local Pentecostal churches.
He said professional scammers will do and say anything to “milk money from people.”
He said this case is currently being investigated by the local Police and the Transnational Crime Unit investigation.
According to Sala’a the man claimed he was from New Caledonia. He further noted the incident came to light when the church leaders lodged a complaint with the Police.
“This man met with the leaders of the two Samoan Pentecostal churches, and convinced them the money would be for a community assistance programme for the low income families.
“The church leaders were informed the payment was for the registration process for the programme.
“However when he came back asking for more money, that’s when the church leaders started to realize this was a scam. After that, when they could not locate the alleged scammer, the church leaders lodged their criminal complaint with police,” explained Sala’a.
The Assistant Police Commissioner told the Sunday Samoan, that an immigration manifest shows the accused had since left Samoa.
“The Police are now working together with the Transnational Crime Unit investigating this matter,” said Sala’a.
Sala’a reiterated the need for members of the public to think things thorough carefully before giving out money to a total stranger.
“Once they take the money, that’s it, you won’t hear from them.”
He further noted these people travel the world conducting fraudulent scams and by the time its reported to the Police, they have usually left the country.
“So be careful,” he warned.
“Be alert, and don’t let anyone take your hard-earned money.... when it’s looks too good to be true, you always have to consider your options. Don’t fall for lies,” he said.
Samoa residents are also being urged to share this information with anyone vulnerable, including the elderly. It’s not just these people who come into our country.
“If anyone comes knocking on your door, check their bonafides and their identification,’’ he said.
“Find out where they are from and phone the company to check. If you’re still not sure, phone us and we will investigate for you,” Sala’a told the Sunday Samoan.
Sala pointed out that some scammers use email and he laid out some simple steps that should be put in place to protect yourself.
“You need to scrutinize new requests for any payment and have a clearly defined process for verifying and paying accounts and invoices.
“With the advancement of technology, we have to be cautious with everything, not just the scammers who come to your house or phone you, but also the ones who will email you. Be alert and report anything suspicious to the Police,” said Sala’a.