One of the scams reported often to us is government grant scams. These scammers are pretending to be from a trusted and legitimate organisation to make their scam seem more genuine.
How the scam works
Government grant scams are simple in nature. Scammers will call people at random claiming to be from the New Zealand government. They will say they’re from a department such as the “New Zealand Government Grant Department”. Some scammers claim to be calling on behalf of a government figure, or political party and may give a fake employee ID number. A common claim is that the target has been chosen to receive a grant as a reward e.g. for being good citizens, for having no criminal convictions or for voting for a certain political party.
Scammers will ask the target for their details in order to process the grant. For example, they will ask for bank account details, name, date of birth, address, mother’s maiden name, former addresses and credit card details. The scammer may use these details to call the target’s bank and steal money from their accounts. Other scammers ask for a fake administration or processing fee before they can make the payment. They’ll ask for this money to be sent offshore via a money transfer service (e.g. Western Union or Moneygram) because the payments aren’t traceable. Being asked to send money overseas through these systems is a tactic often used by scammers. Once the scammers get the money for the “fee”, the target won’t receive any money from the fake grant.
The targets are also given Wellington phone numbers to call them back on. When called, an automated voice message in a New Zealand accent will claim that the New Zealand Government Grant Department has been reached and to leave a message. The scammers are using internet based calling programs that allow them to manipulate the number, so that it looks like it’s coming from Wellington, however the scammers are likely based outside of New Zealand.
If you receive a call
Our advice is to hang up immediately. If you provided security related information such as mother’s maiden name, and/or former residential address, you should contact your bank immediately.
This Identity Theft Checklist is a helpful guide on what could happen with the information you provided. If you believe you were exposed to identity theft, we recommend you contact iDCare as they provide free help and support.
If you need further help and advice about government grant scams you can contact our helpline by calling 0508 NETSAFE (0508 638 723), emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by completing an online report form at netsafe.org.nz/report.
Information to protect
You should protect information that can be used to access your accounts, build a fake online presence or impersonate you.
- Login details and passwords to any online account including banking, email, social media and trading sites
- Bank account and credit card details
- Phone number
- Personal information linked to the security questions on your online accounts
Report a scam
Help if you have been scammed or think you are about to be scammed: Netsafe can’t open investigations or track scammers, but we can offer support and advice for people who have lost money in a scam, or think they are about to. This includes letting you know the steps you can take depending on the scam you’re in and giving you advice about how to stay safe in future. You can report a scam to www.netsafe.org.nz/report.
Our help service is open from 8am – 8pm Monday to Friday and 9am – 5pm on weekends.
- Cold calling scams
- More information on scams
- Quick guide for staying safe online
- Online safety advice for parents
- Online safety advice for businesses