Waikato Police investigating the alleged sale of non-existent airfares to the Tongan community say the most important thing for victims to do is to make authorities aware of the extent of what has happened.
Acting Detective Senior Sergeant Andy Bu Bear of the Hamilton CIB said in addition to working with Police colleagues in Auckland, Counties Manukau and Wellington, investigators were liaising with Immigration New Zealand to build up a picture of what has occurred.
"Police are aware of an airfare scam where dozens of people have been duped into buying heavily discounted return airfares between Auckland and Tonga, for a flight leaving last Friday.
"Turning up to Auckland Airport to meet their flight the victims learned their tickets hadn’t been booked. Currently Hamilton Police are aware of 47 people tickets were bought for with a number of these victims being children who tickets were bought for by other family members."
Mr Bu Bear said a priority for not only Police investigators but partner agencies was building up an accurate picture of not only what has happened but also just who was affected and who was responsible.
"Anyone with any information on who is involved is asked to contact the Operation Alena inquiry team at the Hamilton Central Police station on 07 858 6200, your call will be treated in confidence."
Alternatively information can be left anonymously with Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.
While Waikato officers work to establish the circumstances around this latest scam, Immigration New Zealand advises that this incident follows another last month where the Tongan community were targeted by a fake visa scam.
Immigration New Zealand’s Regional Manager Pacific/Americas, Alan Barry, said while the priority for the Government agencies involved was establishing just what has occurred there is no immigration amnesty for Tongan people.
"The public should be wary of being scammed by others for money, be it for visas or air fares that seem too good to be true. Put simply, its fraud and should be immediately reported to the police for investigation.
"Any allegations of visas for sale or regarding an immigration amnesty, especially when there is a transaction involved, should also be referred to the Police. Immigration New Zealand is the only agency that can issue a visa for people to remain lawfully in New Zealand.
Mr Barry said people should be very wary of immigration advice that does not come directly from Immigration New Zealand or a Licensed Immigration Advisor and the department appeals in the strongest possible terms for people concerned about their immigration status to talk to them and not be taken in by such scams.
"We encourage people who are victims of this scam to make contact with Police immediately.
"Anyone wanting to complain about licensed immigration advisers who have acted unprofessionally is asked to make contact with the Immigration Advisers Authority”.