New Zealanders lost more than $10.1 million to online scams and fraud last year, and the country’s biggest city has felt the worst of it, according to Netsafe.
Auckland residents who reported fraud to Netsafe lost $2.7 million to scams in 2017, while the West Coast reported total losses of just $264.63.
Wellington residents lost upwards of $1.14 million, followed by Canterbury ($969,000). Those who chose not to reveal their location lost a collective $2.68 million.
The biggest single loss totalled $480,000 from an investment scam, while many Kiwis fell for online romance scams and lost $1.4 million.
Netsafe CEO Martin Cocker says that the reported findings are only a fraction of the total amount.
"Recently Netsafe has received two reports where people have lost several hundred thousand dollars to scams. We do find that some people feel embarrassed about reporting these losses, but it’s important to report so we accurately understand the scale of the problem, and can evolve our national response and education accordingly," Cocker explains.
Many scams are tightly-run schemes run by criminal groups. Scam tactics are becoming more sophisticated and look more authentic than ever before.
The most common scam reported to Netsafe is the PC tech support scam, in which scammers trick users into believing there is a problem with their computers. Scammers request remote access to the computer and then proceed to take large sums of money out of peoples’ accounts or transfer money through money transfer methods.
Those scams are hard to police because many of those scams are operated outside of New Zealand. Cocker says it is unlikely that targets will be able to recover the money.
"Basically once it's gone, it's gone. That’s why proactive education is important to mitigate the risk in the first instance. We encourage everyone, no matter how digitally savvy they think they are, to improve their knowledge of scams and to talk to friends or family who might need a bit of extra help," he explains.
Online scam and fraud losses reported to Netsafe in 2017
While some banks may be able to help, Netsafe says New Zealanders should be wary.
Think twice if you’re unexpectedly contacted about a deal or problem.
- Don’t respond to unexpected contact about problems with your computer.
- Legitimate organisations will never ask you for your passwords.
- Think carefully before entering your personal details online or giving them to someone.
- Be wary of unusual payment requests like gift cards, money transfer or iTunes vouchers.
- Be wary of partners recently met online who request money or hint at money problems.
- If you're using a trusted trading or booking website, don't pay outside of it.
- If you’re not sure if something is genuine you can contact Netsafe for free advice.