Scams and frauds: understanding internet trickery

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NetBasics Masquerade

The web has brought a new convenience for criminals wanting to steal your money or personal information.

It is important to develop strategies to identify what is real, and what is trying to trick you.

In general – for all transactions online that require a level of security (involve a credit card or require use of a password and/or an account number) – here are some good tips to remember:

  • only deal with people or businesses in New Zealand – this makes it easier to report problems to the authorities and ensure you have some consumer rights but sometimes overseas websites are the cheapest or only place to get certain products or services
  • make sure that you have adequate contact details (not just a PO Box number) before you send any money
  • spend time before you buy checking out the retailer: Google the website and/or company name to see if others have reported problems on web forums

FAQs:Internet scams

What websites can I trust?
Only trust websites you can verify to be legitimate. It is easy to make an authentic looking website so don’t fooled by clever fakes.

Common tricks include: using web addresses that are similar to the real ones, the use of false security symbols, and even providing links to legitimate pages to lull you into a false sense of security.

It can be worth doing a ‘whois’ search on the website address to see if the company contact details are published and how long the address has been registered.

Scammers often pay to register a new website name for only 1 year in the knowledge they will be shut down or bad reviews by customers flag the problem to other shoppers. Private registrations can also be a cause for concern.

Who would request my personal details via email?
Nobody. Anybody who does is a crook – or an incompetent marketer. Either way, you should ignore them.

How can I spot a scam?
It is often said “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is”. It is true that people don’t win lotteries that they never bought a ticket for, or inherit millions of dollars from family they have never met – but not all scams are that obvious. You are wise to exercise caution at all times.

But he’s really: nice/kind/seems genuine…
Crooks will go to a lot of trouble and take their time to appear genuine and build trust if it helps them get what they want.

Is it just my money they want?
Your bank or credit card details are not the only information you hold that is of value to criminals. By stealing other parts of your identity, they can use your good reputation to help them defraud other people.

Shouldn’t I play along for a laugh?
Many scams are money making schemes for organised crime. These are not the sort of people you want to joke around with.

Learn more about common internet scams

NetSafe has built the Scam Machine website ( to let you learn about online scams whilst having fun.

You can also keep up to date with new scams and frauds affecting New Zealanders by visiting the Ministry of Consumer Affairs’ Scamwatch website.

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