How people can protect themselves from being scammed out of money

Scams are becoming more elaborate, with many cybercriminals taking the time to build trust with their victims before swindling them out of large sums of money - sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars.

That's according to online safety company Netsafe, who spoke to Newshub ahead of the premiere of Patrick Gower's new documentary On Cyber Crime

Criminals try to suck people in by building relationships the victim deemed legitimate, before suggesting they invest in something such as a "cryptocurrency", Netsafe chief online safety officer Sean Lyons said.

The problem is, that "cryptocurrency" doesn't exist but, by the time the victims realise, it's too late.

Netsafe's latest report shows more than 2700 online scams were reported in the second quarter of this year, with losses as a result of hoaxes totalling $13.3 million.

Hoaxes reported were dominated by text message phishing scams, Netsafe said.

Lyons said scammers were building trust to the point they could talk their victims into doing things out of character.

"If the scammer can win your trust - you feel like you trust that person - you're more likely to do an awful lot of things that you probably wouldn't do normally.

"The romance scam has been found as a way to build that really strong trust relationship first… this is long, serious investment sometimes, this 'romance' part, in order to transfer it into something else and that's why I think romance scams are so commonly apart of scams - it's probably the cruelest of all of the scams, really."

As part of raising awareness around cybercrime, Lyons gave his top advice for things New Zealanders can do to protect themselves.

Protect personal information

As most scammers are usually after two things - money and personal information - Lyons suggested treating personal details like you do your finance.

"Personal information can be just as valuable as your cold, hard cash," he said.

The information people give to others can be "just as valuable" as money. "Treat them in the same way," Lyons said.

How people can protect themselves from being scammed out of money
Photo credit: Getty Images

Be wary if they're pressuring you for time 

Because "a real hallmark of scammers" is giving their victims deadlines for making payments, people should always see time pressure as a red flag, Lyons said.

"When people are putting you under extreme time pressure - treat that as a warning sign and think very carefully."

Look out for 'unusual' money transfer methods

People should think twice if someone asks you to transfer money somewhere other than a bank you don't recognise, Lyons said.

Scams would often involve an "unusual and convolute path around money", he said.

"They'll try and get you away from banking systems, they'll try and get you into wire transfers - a lot of them will even ask you to go and purchase iTunes cards from the supermarket and send them the code.

"When it feels wrong - when somebody tries to put you in places where you're not comfortable… that's another one of those warning signs."