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Cyber crime

Phone scams in New Zealand: the latest trends (and how to stay safe)

Niek Dekker
6 Min

Phone scams have become an increasingly common problem in New Zealand, with fraudsters using a range of tactics to trick unsuspecting victims out of their money and personal information.

Whether it’s a call from someone claiming to be from your bank, the tax office or a well-known retailer, these scams can be highly sophisticated and difficult to spot.

Let’s take a look at common trends and tactics used in phone scams in New Zealand, along with tips for protecting your money and personal information.

What are some of the most common phone scams in New Zealand?

Knowledge is power, so it always helps to stay on top of some of the most common tactics that phone scammers are using. Here are some of the latest.

The Microsoft Scam

This is an older scam but is still very much in use. Scammers will call you posing as a Microsoft employee and claim that there’s a problem with your computer. They will then ask for remote access to your computer and try to steal your personal information or install malware on your computer.

The Tax Scam

In this scam, scammers will call you pretending to be from the Inland Revenue Department (IRD) and claim that you owe money in unpaid taxes. Then, they’ll threaten you with legal action if you don’t pay immediately, often following it up with a prompt to give them your credit card or bank details.

The IRD Phone Scam

Similar to the tax scam, fraudsters will generate an automated phone call scam that claims to be from the Inland Revenue Department (IRD) asking targets for their name and phone number. IRD would never ask for your bank account or PIN numbers over the phone according, to the IRD website.

The Google Phone Scam

This is a fraudulent scheme where scammers call individuals impersonating representatives from Google. The scammers claim that the targeted individuals’ Google accounts have been compromised for various reasons. They may ask you to provide personal information such as your name, address, and email account credentials or even direct you to download software to control your computer.

The NZTA (NZ Transport Agency) Scam

Much like the IRD phone scam, cyber criminals impersonate representatives from the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) claiming that the targeted individual’s vehicle registration has expired or owes funds for a traffic infringement.

While these are known (and common) scams, it’s important to realise that scammers don’t stop here. Analysing past incidents, it’s clear that phone scams are only one subset of digital fraud and cyber-crime. There are a variety of tools and methods at the disposal of the scammer such as business email compromise (BEC) scams, phishing scams and more.

After understanding these cyber attacks, we now show you how to spot a potential phone scam so that you can avoid falling victim.

How to spot a potential phone scam in New Zealand

Phone scams are becoming a common occurrence for Kiwis, so it’s essential to know how to spot them. Here are some tips to help you identify a potential phone scam – and to help prevent a scammer from getting your money or information.

  1. Caller ID: Check the caller ID when the phone rings. If the number is unfamiliar or appears to be from overseas, then check the number on Google and verify the caller on the line. However, it’s best practice to never trust inbound calls – it’s too easy for scammers to spoof or manipulate a legitimate phone number by using the software. If you suspect the caller to be a scammer, just hang up the call.
  2. Unsolicited calls: Be wary of unsolicited calls from people claiming to represent a government agency or a well-known business. Generally speaking, government bodies or corporate entities do not make unsolicited calls asking you to reveal your personal information. The communication method is often through the mail or a portal from a created account.
  3. Urgency: Scammers often create a sense of urgency or panic to prompt you to act quickly. If the caller is pressuring you to make a payment or provide personal information without giving you time to think or consult with others, it’s likely a scam.
  4. Personal information: Scammers often ask for personal information such as your name, address, date of birth or bank details. Be cautious and never provide this information over the phone, especially if the caller is unknown.
  5. Too good to be true: IF a caller offers you something that seems too good to be true, it probably is. Scammers often use this tactic to lure in victims and get them to provide personal information or make payments.
  6. Payment requests: If the caller asks for payment through unusual methods such as gift cards, cryptocurrency, or wire transfers, it is likely a scam. Legitimate organisations typically accept payment through standard methods such as credit card details.

How do I report a phone scam in New Zealand?

If you’ve fallen victim to a phone scam or suspect that you’ve received a scam call, one of the best steps is to report it to authorities. Here’s what you need to know about reporting phone scams in New Zealand.

1. Contact your bank or financial institution

If you provided any personal information or banking details during the phone call, contact your bank or financial institution immediately. They will be able to advise you on what to do next and may be able to help you recover any lost funds.

2. Report the scam to the police or CERT NZ

In New Zealand, you can report phone scams to the police by contacting your nearest police station or by calling CrimeStoppers on 0800 555 111 you can report crime anonymously. If you have been a victim of fraud, make sure to report it to the police as soon as possible.

CERT NZ will be able to assist with the next steps and guidance on who might be experiencing the same phone scam. CERT NZ works to support businesses and individuals who are affected or may be affected by cyber security incidents. You can report your cybersecurity incident on the report an issue webpage or contact them at 0800 2378 69.

3. Report the scam to Netsafe

Netsafe is an independent, not-for-profit organisation that works to promote online safety in New Zealand. They have a dedicated team that deals with reports of phone scams and other types of online fraud. You can report a scam to Netsafe by filling out their online reporting form or by calling their helpline on 0508 NETSAFE (0508 638 723).

Tips for staying safe

  1. Don’t trust the caller ID: Scammers can easily manipulate caller ID to make it appear as though they are calling from a legitimate organisation or government agency. Therefore, never trust caller ID alone as a guarantee of authenticity. Some scammers like to impersonate individuals or businesses and may say that they are “cold calling” to persuade you to reveal information.
  2. Don’t give out personal information: Be wary of unsolicited calls asking for personal information such as your date of birth, credit card details or passwords. Legitimate companies seldom ask for this type of information through unsolicited phone calls.
  3. Hang up and call back. If you receive a call from someone claiming to be from an organisation, hang up and call back using the same phone number. This helps verify the authenticity of the call. Or you can search the number on Google to identify if the number is associated with a business.
  4. Be cautious of urgent requests: Scammers often use social engineering techniques like phishing, spoofing or smashing against a backdrop of phoney urgency. Then, they threaten their targets to pressure individuals into giving out sensitive information or money. Be cautious of calls that demand immediate action or threaten consequences if you don’t comply.
  5. Don’t be fooled by official-sounding language: Scammers often use official-sounding language or jargon to make their calls sound more legitimate. Don’t be fooled by this tactic and always ask for clarification if you’re unsure about the matter.

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