New study shows 'tidal wave' of scams hitting New Zealand

Mobile Pnone Shopping Online With A Debit Card
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Kiwis are being hit by a "tidal wave" of scammers, according to a new study commissioned by BNZ.

And it's not just the elderly who are being targeted; those aged 35 to 44 are just as likely to lose money, with scammers going after internet users with busy lives.

According to the study, 81 percent of New Zealanders have been targeted by a scam. 

"Scammers are taking advantage of good people and Kiwis are drowning and not putting their hand up for help," says Ashley Kai Fong, head of financial crime at BNZ.

Fifteen percent of New Zealanders who lose money in scams suffer in silence and don't tell anyone, the study found. 

Fraudsters use a number of techniques to lure their victims, says Kai Fong.

"Scammers are selling fake tickets and subscriptions, giving away grants and prizes, mimicking the taxman and invoicing departments of businesses we use for products and services. In some instances they are even imitating colleagues and friends."

The study showed that 13 percent of Kiwis were hesitant to go online for fear of being stung in a scam.

"Scammers are increasingly sophisticated and manipulative. They prey on our desire for convenience, the time-poor and those whose attention is pulled in several directions."

More than half of those who fall for scams (58 percent) fail to report it afterwards.

Martin Cocker, chief executive of Netsafe, says internet users are often hesitant to report scams they have fallen for because they think "what's the point?"

"The reason that many people don't report scam loses is fairly simple: many people know that very little comes of reporting and they're very unlikely to recover their money," he says.

"It absolutely helps if people reports scams. The more information that people share, the more likely the truth gets out and the more likely other people can be protected," he says. "But the reality is when most people have been scammed their concern is for themselves, and reporting it so that other people don't fall victim is not necessarily helping them in any way."

Cocker says the quickest way to avoid falling for scams is to do your own research before handing over money to anyone.

"Whenever you are presented with an offer online, independently research it. If you get sent an email and it takes you directly to some site, it's best to exit that and do a quick Google search for that business name - even type the word 'scam' into the search and see what you get."

Last year, Kiwis lost at least $33 million in 13,000 cases of fraud and online scams, according to Netsafe. That number was up by $10.1 million compared to 2017, where 8100 cases were reported.