Shocking amount of money Kiwis lost to scams in past quarter revealed, urgent warning issued over Christmas shopping

Kiwis lost nearly $9 million between July and September in online scams, a new report reveals. 

The Government’s cyber security agency CERT NZ released its quarterly insights report on Wednesday which showed while the number of scams is only up 3 percent, the loss associated with them skyrocketed a whopping 128 percent, making it the highest loss in a quarter since records started in 2017.

In the quarter, 2069 scam incidents were reported to CERT NZ as well as $8.9 million in direct financial loss - which significantly exceeded the previous quarter's losses of $3.9 million. 

Over 600 individuals carried most of this loss, including almost $7.5m lost to scams and fraud alone.

The report showed in the quarter 314 people lost between $100 and $1000 and 12 unlucky people lost more than $10,000. 

Phishing and credential harvesting was the most popular way for scammers to access money followed by scams and fraud and unauthorised access to accounts. 

The most common type of scam in the quarter was around buying, selling or donating goods followed by dating and romance scams.

CERT NZ director Rob Pope said the figures are a wake-up call for Kiwis and a reminder of how important it is to protect yourself online. 

"While it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the large total loss figures, our data shows that most people are losing between $100 and $500, which is a real sting in the pocket for most of us," Pope said. 

"We want New Zealanders to take notice of these numbers and use that as motivation to do some quick, simple actions that will stop them, and their whānau, from being the next targets.”

The report found unauthorised money transfers, unauthorised access and scams involving bullying, selling and donating goods are driving the increase in losses. 

Pope said heading into the Christmas season scammers will be looking to take advantage of bargain-hunting shoppers. 

“As we come into the holiday season, New Zealanders will be looking online for bargains and scammers know it,” Pope said. “We’re asking everyone to be cautious when they’re shopping online or perusing online marketplaces and be suspicious of anything that seems too good to be true.”

“People should also turn on two-factor authentication, as this is still the best way to stop baddies accessing your accounts. This includes social media accounts as well as banks.”

Pope said scammers are increasingly creating convincing fake shopping sites so it's important to be careful, especially during the silly season. 

Tips for avoiding scams  

The report urged Kiwis to exercise an abundance of caution when doing anything online which involves money or personal details. 

"Scammers want you to do things quickly and without thinking, by creating urgency," the report said. 

"Many scam tactics can be fended off with a small bit of research, taking your time to

consider if an offer is legitimate, or contacting a company directly rather than clicking a link in a text message.

"If you believe you have been the target of an online scam contact CERT NZ and, if you have lost money, contact your bank, immediately. The sooner you report it the more likely the loss can be minimised or even reversed."