How To Avoid Popular Online Scams In New Zealand
The moment Sue was asked by a stranger on the phone to enter her bank account details online, she realised she was nearly the victim of a scam.
1 November 2021
Sue, 80, had given her Wi-Fi password to her granddaughter to use. Just days later, Sue received a call on her landline from a man posing as a Spark representative.
He asked her to check the lights on her modem, explaining errors and warnings were showing up at their end.
The caller said they would fix Sue’s computer and get her a new modem, and offered her NZ$200 as goodwill for the trouble.
They asked her to download TeamViewer software, which allowed them remote access to her computer, in order to deposit the NZ$200.
All they needed was her bank account details, which she could enter on the screen provided.
But Sue was starting to get suspicious.
“I thought to myself, ‘I’m not giving out my bank account’. At that stage they were going cold on the other end… and it was nearly an hour later.”
Sue refused to give her bank details, and the call was quickly ended by the scammers.
Huge losses for Kiwis
Sue had a lucky escape as no money was taken but, every year, thousands of Kiwis fall victim to online or phone scams.
Safety organisation Netsafe’s figures show that, in 2017, Kiwis reported losing NZ$10.1 million to online scams and fraud. Over the past five years, NZ$47.6 million has been reported lost. And it’s the tip of the iceberg, experts say.
Netsafe Chief Executive Martin Cocker says that, while there’s the perception that older people are more likely to fall for scams, “there’s a scam for everybody at some point in time”.
“There’s no particular demographic for scams, overall.”
Types of scams on the rise
Bronwyn Groot, Fraud Education Manager at the Commission for Financial Capability, says one of the more popular scams is where scammers call on a number from the UK offering investment opportunities.
Groot says in the past six months, the volume of calls from scammers to New Zealand phones has increased significantly.
“The number of calls coming through is ridiculous. They’re really ramping it up,” Groot says.
Another common one – and the one that Sue nearly fell for – is the ‘computer takeover’, where a scammer gets remote access to your computer.
“Then they transfer the money. It’s going really quickly out of the country and we are talking big dollars. Some people have had NZ$30,000 to NZ$40,000 taken out of their bank accounts,” Groot says.
Another scam, the ‘CEO email’ scam, is becoming more sophisticated, Groot says.
Here, an employee maybe in the accounts department, is sent an email from someone claiming to be their boss, who requires a payment immediately.
Only the email isn’t from your boss, it’s from a scammer who has created an email address that looks very similar, Groot says.
How to keep safe
- Stop and breathe: Scammers feed into a sense of urgency. “They want you panicking and that way you don’t think too clearly. Give yourself time to think before you act on anything,” Groot says.
- Break off engagement: Cocker says you should never follow the path that is provided to you. Break off engagement and go research it yourself. Get a name and number and say you’ll call them back, Groot says.
- Check your security settings: Facebook regularly changes its privacy settings. Review this and other social media settings regularly. Restrict the amount of information that’s publicly available – that’s the information that scammers are after.
- Seek help immediately
If you’ve given someone money or remote access to your computer, call your bank immediately, Groot says. Make sure you are completely honest with them, even if it’s embarrassing. If you’ve lost money, contact the police to report it. And, if you’re not getting anywhere, contact the Commission for help.
0508 NETSAFE (0508 638 723)
Commission for Financial Capability:
0800 CERT NZ (0800 2378 69)
Financial Markets Authority:
0800 434 567
By Claire Connell
First published 23 March 2018
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