Kiwis are being urged to stay vigilant as scammers look to take advantage of increased uncertainty and stress levels during the COVID-19 lockdown.
Research released by Bank of New Zealand on Monday as part of 'Scam Savvy Week', shows expedited COVID-19 tests and vaccinations and 'redelivery' of parcels requiring payment of a fee, are among the scams in circulation.
Kiwis are urged to check links in emails and text messages before opening them - and be on the alert for scammers pretending to be trusted companies and services.
New Zealand is now into its second week of lockdown, with 562 cases of COVID-19 in the community. Auckland will stay at alert level 4 for at least two more weeks, until Tuesday, September 14 (Northland until Thursday, when wastewater test results are confirmed). The rest of New Zealand will move to alert level 3 at 11.59pm on Tuesday.
Ashley Kai Fong, head of financial crime at Bank of New Zealand (BNZ), said scammers are taking advantage of increased online and email activity during lockdown to swindle money.
Kiwis need to be on the lookout for scams that exploit the lockdown and the COVID-19 pandemic, he said.
That includes scams offering a COVID-19 test or COVID-19 vaccine, in return for a fee.
"We know when the country is [in] lockdown, scammers will try to trick people into paying money to get a test or a vaccine," Kai Fong said.
The 'charge' could range from "around $50 up to several hundred [dollars]".
In addition to offers for tests, scammers are also trying to elicit money off people expecting contactless delivery of essential goods during lockdown.
Typically, a scammer will send an email or text telling the receiver they 'missed' a delivery. They'll ask them to click or tap on the link in the message to 'reschedule' the delivery, for a fee.
The message may also include a warning that if there's no response, the package will be returned or thrown away.
"These scams always have a sense of urgency: hurrying people into acting in order to avoid something bad happening," Kai Fong said.
The sense of urgency is a tell-tale sign for any scam: it's used to try to stop people from thinking clearly.
"These scams will also direct people to a dodgy website, so always check the links in emails and text messages before you open them," Kai Fong added.
BNZ's research also showed an opportunity for businesses to do more to keep their customers' information safe, with 54 percent of respondents more concerned about their personal data than last year. Recent high-profile data leaks, including the Waikato DHB ransomware attack and the Kaseya VSA ransomware attack affected customer confidence.
Nearly four out of five Kiwis have been targeted by a scam, BNZ research showed. And almost a quarter have been a victim of one.
The average amount of money lost to a scam was $1,638.
Remote access scams, scams masquerading as Government services or departments, inheritance scams and cryptocurrency investment scams were among the biggest scams in circulation.
'Phishing' emails, where a scammer pretends to be a company owner (or someone authorised to make payments), were still one of the main tactics used to defraud people.
"Scammers will try to contact people in a range of ways – email, text messages, phone calls, pop-up ads online, or even posted letters," Kai Fong said.
"They're increasingly sophisticated, imitating brands and trusted organisations to deceive people into clicking on links or handing over money."
Kiwis are reminded there's no cost to get a COVID-19 jab or test. Vaccines can be booked online through the Ministry of Health website, bookmyvaccine.co.nz.
People needing to get tested, including people who were at a location of interest at the specified times, or who have cold or flu symptoms, are advised to call Healthline on 0800 358 5453 for advice. The Healthpoint website has a list of current COVID-19 testing locations.
Kiwis who receive an email inviting them to pay for a COVID-19 test or vaccination are advised to report it online to Cert NZ. Those unsure whether an email is legitimate are advised to contact Healthline.
A range of tools helping Kiwis to be scam savvy can be found on the Bank of New Zealand website.