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$33 million lost to scams & fraud: Netsafe says NZ isn't doing enough to stop it

03 Apr 2019

The latest statistics from Netsafe are proving just how much of an impact online and phone scams are having on people’s wallets – not only have Kiwis lost $33 million to more than 13,000 scam and fraud attacks, but the emotional effects of such scams are causing real psychological harm.

Now Netsafe is urgently ringing alarm bells, with CEO Martin Cocker saying that existing methods of preventing scams aren’t making enough of an impact.

“We’re now seeing waves of successful scams hitting the country, with the fake sextortion scam being the most recent. We know the lengths that scammers are taking to deceive New Zealanders and we know that existing interventions are having a limited effect. This is an issue that isn’t going away. More needs to be done or we will continue to see large numbers of New Zealanders suffering financial and psychological harm,” says Cocker.

Netsafe says many people who report scams are confused about where to report their issues to, disillusioned about the point of reporting, and often feel embarrassed about being tricked.

To highlight the social harm, Netsafe says many victims have also lost confidence in digital technology to make payments or connect with others. 

Netsafe believes that New Zealand must rethink the way it coordinates resources to protect New Zealanders.

“At the moment, there is no official ‘one-stop-shop’ that the public can report scams to and rely on for the advice they need. There is no co-ordinated national effort to disrupt scams locally. New Zealand needs a national response centre to provide real-time scam trend analysis, information sharing, nationwide alert systems and dedicated support,” says Cocker.

Netsafe statistics show that in 2018 victims lost $33 million to scams and fraud – more than triple the $10.1 million lost in 2017. It’s also the highest loss Netsafe has recorded in its 20-year history.  In 2018 the biggest loss was $5 million; while the smallest loss was $1. 

Rewind back to 2013, when the total losses across the board were a mere $4.4 million.

The fake tech support scam, in which scammers trick victims into thinking there is a problem with their computer and offer to fix it, was once again the most common scam in 2018. Sextortion scams, in which scammers accuse victims of allegedly watched pornography on their computers and demanding a ransom, was the newest scam in 2018.  Investment scams, invoice scams, and romance scams also conned New Zealanders.

Netsafe says everyone should be wary of:

1. Being contacted by phone or email out of the blue

2. Being told there is a problem with your device or internet connections

3. Being asked for the passwords to your online accounts

4. Unexpected communications asking you to “verify” your account or details

5. Winning a competition that you don’t remember entering

6. Moving outside of an online trading or booking website or app

7. Friends/partners you’ve met online asking for money or talking about money problems

8. Unusual payment methods such as gift cards

9. Being asked for remote access to your device

10. Pressure to make a decision or take action quickly

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