In a typically 21st century crime, fraudsters have used scam emails and fake websites to steal more than €3 million (NZ$6m) of carbon credits from international businesses.
The Economic Development Ministry said businesses in New Zealand were at risk from the fraud, but it was confident none had fallen victim.
It has written to all companies with carbon credits registered on its database, reminding them to guard their account details and passwords.
The ministry said hoax emails were sent to businesses in several countries aimed at persuading them to click on links that took them to fake websites, where they were asked to key in their account details and passwords.
Such “phishing” scams are commonly used to defraud banks, but ministry spokeswoman Emilia Mazur said it was believed to be the first time the US$135 billion (NZ$196b) carbon credit market had been targeted.
Quoting Hans-Juergen Nantke, head of German carbon credit registry DEHSt, Reuters reported that carbon credits had been stolen from six German firms and that others in the European Union and in Australia, Norway and New Zealand had been targeted.
These countries were at risk because they allow credits to be transferred overseas.
The ministry checked its database at the request of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Mazur said no New Zealand firms had transferred credits overseas since the scam came to light. None had reported thefts.
She was unsure how the fraudsters planned to cash in the credits. “I personally wouldn’t know what to do with carbon credits. They don’t seem to take them down at McDonald’s.”
All I can say is that the the scheme itself should have never been there in the first place as it is based on cooked up research and now we find that it is actually causing new scams to arise. It was a matter of time I guess.