Phishing scams targeting Kiwis as five million cyberthreats hit New Zealand in three months

Technology support scams are the biggest threat as people are spending more time on devices.
Technology support scams are the biggest threat as people are spending more time on devices. Photo credit: Getty Images

Hot on the heels of the FluBot malware infecting Android mobile phones in New Zealand, an online security company is warning Kiwis of other cybercriminal threats.

In the last three months Norton has blocked over five million cyberthreats in the country, according to the company.

That averages over 56,000 blocks per day, with technology support scams being the most prevalent form of phishing in Aotearoa.

Support scams, which often arrive as a pop-up alert using the names and branding of major tech companies, are expected to become more of a threat with the upcoming holidays season, along with shopping and charity-related scams.

The scams have become more effective during the COVID-19 pandemic as people increasingly rely on their devices to manage their work and family schedules.

"Tech support scams are effective because they prey on consumers' fear, uncertainty and doubt to trick recipients into believing they face a dire cybersecurity threat," Darren Shou, head of technology at NortonLifeLock said.

"Awareness is the best defence against these targeted attacks. Never call a number listed on a tech support pop-up, and instead reach out to the company directly through their official website to validate the situation and next steps."

Other threats facing Kiwis include:

  • Fraudulent online banking pages, where customers are targeted by a near-identical version of their bank's login page to trick them into entering their usernames and passwords
  • Attackers using websites intended to check a gift card's balance to uncover the valid card number and PIN, allowing them to steal the funds
  • A phishing campaign designed to obtain login credentials and two-factor authentication information for online games to steal valuable in-game items

The latest warning comes after CERT NZ, the Government's cybersecurity agency, reported people in Aotearoa lost nearly $4 million through around 1350 cybersecurity incidents during April, May and June this year.

The majority of high-value losses were related to scams when buying or selling goods and services online, but some were also related to dating scams.

One ransomware attack and another incident related to a cryptocurrency scam ended up costing more than $100,000 each, bringing the total losses suffered by New Zealanders since 2017 to $60 million.

There are a number of ways to protect yourself against scams and fraud, CERT NZ says.

They include turning on multi-factor authentication and using unique passwords for all online accounts, not clicking on a web link sent to you by someone you don't know and remembering one overarching piece of advice that applies both online and offline: "Try to remember that if something seems to be too good to be true, it probably is."