In 2017, over $10 million dollars in losses were reported by Kiwis to Netsafe, and in the first half of 2018, $18 million dollars in losses have been reported. These are only the scam losses that were reported to Netsafe and we know that actual losses are much higher.
There are many different types of scams, but there are often similar characteristics or tell-tale signs to be on the watch for. One of the best ways we can protect ourselves against scams in by being aware of the common ways scammers work.
Netsafe’s Guide to Scam Spotting
Here’s a few tell-tale signs of scams:
- Being contacted by phone or email out of the blue – even if the person says they’re from a legitimate organisation like the bank, an embassy or your internet provider.
- Being told there is a problem with your phone, laptop or internet connections – often they will offer to fix your device or say they are from your phone or internet company.
- Being asked for the passwords to your online accounts – legitimate organisations will never ask for the passwords to your online accounts.
- Emails, texts, or calls asking you to “verify” your account or details – don’t respond or click on any links in the communication, even if it looks like it’s from a real organisation.
- Trying to get you to move outside of an online trading or booking website or app (like Air BnB) – don’t pay outside of the normal website or app processes.
- Offering money or something else, but you have to make a payment or give information up font – they might say that it’s a “processing” fee or something similar.
- Friends/partners you’ve met online asking for money or talking about problems that could be solved with money – this is a very common tactic, do not pay the money.
- Unusual ways to pay for something – scammers try to use payments that can’t be traced such as pre-loaded debit cards, gift cards, bitcoins, iTunes cards or money transfer systems.
- Asking for remote access to your device – asking to be let “in” to your device when they are in another location – never do this unless you have actively sought out the service they are providing.
- Pressuring you to make a decision or take action quickly – this could be to avoid something bad (e.g. account being closed, trouble with the IRD) or to take advantage of something good (a really good deal or investment).
Often a scam works because of timing. For example, getting a call saying that there is a problem with your internet when you have actually been having problems with the connection might not stick out as unusual. The best thing you can do when you notice any of the signs above is to take a minute to think and ask someone for advice or look for more information.
Doing your research
You could also do some online research to find information using some of the details you’ve been told – for example, try searching “problem with my computer scam”, “cheap concert ticket scam”, “verify my account email scam” or “NZ Chinese embassy scam”.
If the person contacting you (by email, phone, text or other) has said that they are from a legitimate organisation and you’re not sure if it’s genuine, you can contact that organisation to check. Make sure that you use the phone number or email they have on their official website or in the phone book – do not use one given to you by the person or in the email they have sent you.
What are the worst scams?
The scams that are most reported to Netsafe are scams like tech support scams, event ticket scams and cold calling scams. The scams where people lose the most money are usually romance scams, investment scams and invoice scams.
Protecting your information
Keep your personal information secure and be sure to think carefully before entering your details online, or giving them to someone.
Protect information that can be used to access your accounts, build a fake online presence or impersonate you including:
- 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
- Driver’s license
- Passport details
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.