Fresh warnings after phone scam targets Spark customers

Phone scammers frequently change their tactics and are difficult to crack down on.
Phone scammers frequently change their tactics and are difficult to crack down on. Photo credit: Getty

Phone scammers have become an incessant problem for landline-owning New Zealanders, who can find themselves dealing with several scam calls a week

The complaints are from people who have been targeted by scammers claiming to be from Spark, saying bills are owed and the internet will be cut off.

One Dunedin woman who received one of these calls said she told the caller she was not a Spark customer, and he responded with: "You are a bloody b*tch," before hanging up on her.

But the scammers chose the wrong number to call when they got Julie Harlwich, who works in software. Ms Harlwich says she wasn't offended by the name calling, instead having a good laugh at the rapid change in the caller's persona.

When she warned of the scam on a local Facebook page, others chimed in saying they had received the same call. 

The scammers appear to be calling random numbers and hedging their bets that some of the recipients will be signed up to the popular internet provider.

While Ms Harlwich was able to laugh off the Spark scammer, it was the second time they called that week, and she said she was getting annoyed at the number of calls she gets to her landline.

One piece of advice offered by community members frustrated by the number of scam calls is to blow a whistle down the phone line. Ms Harliwich says next time, she might just give that a try.

Spark says it's tricky to prevent the attacks, which police describe as "fluid" and "constantly changing". They receive "regular reports" of various scams in operation.

Police say if you have any doubt about a phone call or email, it is likely it is a scam. If you are threatened, simply hang up. 

Spark say their best line of defence at the moment is to warn customers of the tactics used by scammers so they know what to expect.

Spokesperson Ellie Cross says there are a number of scams Spark is aware of:

  • Fraudsters tell customers their Spark services will be cut off due to security issues unless they change their settings or clean up their computers. The customers are then directed to a website where they are asked to download some software, which the fraudsters have branded as Spark.
  • Customers are asked to give remote access to their computer and  provide personal banking information.
  • Sometimes they are instructed to leave their phone off the hook for three days following the "setting change" as part of this scam.
  • Fraudsters give customers a made-up "employee number" to verify their identity, and then gain access to people's bank accounts by claiming customers have exceeded their data limit and need to hand over credit card details in order to pay.

Spark's advice on avoiding being scammed

  • Spark will never ring customers out of the blue and ask them for any form of personal information, particularly bank details or passwords. It will only ask you for personal information if you call. If you receive a call from someone claiming to be from Spark who asks you to enter on the computer your bank details, end the call.
  • It's vitally important customers do not visit fraudulent webpages, or provide any personal banking information. If they have any doubts about a phone call's legitimacy, they should end the call as quickly as possible.
  • Fraudsters actively monitor Spark's activity and copy its methods of communication, so it can be difficult for customers to tell the different between genuine calls and fake ones.
  • Anyone who suspects they have been the victim of this scam and who has passed on bank account details or logged into online banking while on one of these calls should contact their bank immediately.
  • Spark customers who wish to share details of scam calls, or who have any particular concerns, should