Online drug scam victim calls for more Govt support

By Ripeka Timutimu

A former Māori Language Commission deputy chief jailed for possessing cocaine is calling on the government to take a pro-active approach in cracking down on online fraudsters.  Sharon Armstrong spent two years in an Argentinian jail after being duped by a man she met online.

Armstrong was a victim of an online drug scam and she wants the government to stop the same happening to others.

“Rather than be the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff we get a bit more sophisticated we can identify when someone is being scammed, someone like myself can go with the Police and talk with those people,” said Armstrong.

Armstrong was arrested in 2011 at Ezeiza International Airport in Buenos Aires after 5kg of cocaine with a street value of about $1.25mil was found in a bag she had with her.  Her online boyfriend Frank Linus had asked her to pick it up.

“I do remember at the time they had an answer to, in fact Frank even said to me Honey if you're concerned open it up and have a look, at which point I thought I was just being paranoid," explained Armstrong.

The Department of Internal Affairs administers an anti-spam legislation, making it easier to track spammers and fraudsters breaching the law.

The department also says it goes beyond spam to warn people about online crime of other types such as attempts at fraud.  However, Armstrong says it's an uphill battle to stamp it out.

“Those that I'm more interested in exposing are the Drug Cartels.  I believe they are the ones that are behind a number of the scams particularly in my case where people are used as unwitting drug mules,” added Armstrong.

Armstrong hopes that no one else falls victim to these types of fraudsters.