Scam Savvy: How to keep your whānau safer online from the latest cyber threats

  • 27/09/2022
  • Sponsored by - BNZ
Scam Savvy: How to keep your whānau safer online from the latest cyber threats
Photo credit: Supplied

From business to pleasure, New Zealanders’ everyday experiences are increasingly online and as the digitisation of life accelerates, extra convenience comes with an increased threat of online scams. 

Research from BNZ shows that while reported cybercrime is costing millions per year, only 54% of scams are reported, meaning the real dollar figure is much higher.

While the stereotype of someone who falls for an online scam might be an older person who's less internet savvy, the truth is that anybody can fall for a scam because even the smartest people can be tricked by the smartest scammers.

"We have instances of teenagers right through to superannuants who have fallen for scams," says BNZ Head of Financial Crime Ashley Kai Fong.

"A young couple might be trying to get the young kids fed and something pops up on their device. They go, 'jeez, I've got to do this' and at that moment they're vulnerable because they've got something else on their mind."

The best tool we have in the fight against cybercrime is education, so Newshub and BNZ have teamed up to demystify the murky world of online scams and help New Zealanders be 'Scam Savvy'. 

Let's start with one of the most prevalent personal scams in 2022 - SMS phishing or 'smishing'.

What is Smishing? 

Smishing essentially involves a scammer mimicking a real business, service, or person via text in an attempt to get you to click a link. A common recent version involved scammers imitating delivery services by messaging to say you had missed a parcel delivery and you needed to arrange a new time.  

Or they may claim you have won a prize, you have an overdue payment, or there has been some suspicious activity in your bank account. The details may vary but the common thread is that the scammers want you to click on a link. 

Once you do, the website you reach is fake and the real scam begins. 

"They want you to click the link and then enter all your details. And what they're doing in the background is harvesting those details. They are harvesting the account or access number, the password that you might enter," explains Ashley. 

As the name suggests, SMS phishing involves casting a wide net and hoping to reel in a few unsuspecting victims. Thousands of phishing texts may be sent at one time in the hopes of catching one person who happens to be vulnerable the moment they receive it. 

Of course, smishing is far from the only scam: scammers may imitate family members using instant messaging services such as WhatsApp to request money, pose as investors offering a new opportunity via phone, or even someone wanting to initiate a relationship.

Whatever the variation of scam, there are some basic things you can do as a family to keep yourselves safe.

What can I do to protect myself and my whānau?

A common thread through many scams, including smishing, is an attempt to introduce a sense of urgency in asking for personal information. No-one is at their most careful when they're in a hurry and that's what scammers depend on. 

The best defense against all scams is slowing down, thinking, and calmly asking: "does anything seem strange about this?" before taking any requested action, whether it's clicking a link, providing personal information, or paying money. 

"In a rugby scrum they would say 'pause, hold, engage'. Well for cyber security it's all about 'think, pause, engage'. Give yourself that time to think about whether this is logical coming out of the blue, does it feel right?", advises Ashley. 

If someone messages you claiming to be from a particular service or business, contact that business directly and - crucially - not on the number they contacted you through, but the number that you know. Always verify who you're speaking with before divulging any information. 

For example, if you really did miss a parcel delivery, that's something you can check through the postal service website. And while all personal information is important, alarm bells should ring when credit card or banking details are requested. Never provide that information unless you've verified who is receiving it. 

Lastly, consider setting up a personal passphrase with your whānau so that if anyone contacts you claiming to be a family member, you can request the passphrase to confirm their identity. 

General tips for keeping your whānau safer online

  • First thing - shake off that cyber shame! Cyber security can seem daunting, overly complicated, and frightening, particularly for New Zealanders who are less familiar with the online world. But it does not have to be, there is nothing wrong with asking for help if you're unsure, or with reporting a scam if you are a victim.   

  • You already know the basics: you didn’t miraculously inherit millions of dollars from a distant relative you never knew about, you haven’t won a new iPhone by being the 100th person on the website, and you haven't just won a boat by clicking a link. When in doubt, remember the cliché - if it's too good to be true, it probably is. 

  • Remember the power of no: scammers often exploit New Zealanders penchant or politeness to keep you engaged. If someone seems off in a text conversation or phone call, remember you can always just say 'no' and hang up or stop replying.  

  • Look after your devices and they'll look after you: keep them updated because out of date security software is more vulnerable to exploitation by scammers. 

  • A sentence is actually more powerful and often easier to remember than a shorter series of letters and numbers for a password. e.g 'I love gummy bears!' is much harder to crack than 'Password123'.

If you're worried you're the victim of a scam and particularly if there is already money involved, contact your bank immediately and they will do their best to recover the funds. Don't be afraid to involve the police, the more cyber crime goes unreported, the less we know about the true extent of the problem. You can also help others by reporting any online scams you have experienced to CERT NZ.

For more resources, information and even do some tests to see how scam savvy you are, head to

This article was created in partnership with BNZ.

Any views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of BNZ, or its related entities. This article is solely for information purposes and is not intended to be financial advice. If you need help, please contact BNZ or your financial adviser. No party, including BNZ, is liable for direct or indirect loss or damage resulting from the content of this article.