Scams are any schemes that are designed to con you out of your money or steal your personal data.

What are scams?

Scams are any schemes that are designed to con you out of your money or steal your personal data. Scammers can use your personal data to commit identity fraud.

While most people can spot the obvious scams, scammers are trying more and more sophisticated ways of getting your money or personal details. Be alert and protect yourself by watching out for the signs and not trusting appearances.

See also:


How do they work?

Scammers want your money or personal details. Scams succeed because they look like the real thing. People who are scammed often suffer in silence as they are too embarrassed to speak up about their experience and seek help.

Scam delivery methods

Online scams include email, internet and social media sites. The number of phishing or fake email scams is rising. You can also be scammed via cold calls from door-to-door salespeople or by uninvited mail, phone scams and texts.


Who do they target?

In reality, everyone is vulnerable to scams at some stage in life. There is no one particular profile of a victim. However, the age group most popular for scammers to target are those with money aged over 45 years.

Scammers target lots of people, often for small amounts of money.  Most scams come from overseas. But they may pretend to be locally based, from a reputable company, bank or government agency, or even from your friends on social media if they’ve hacked into your account. It is very difficult to get your money back once it is sent overseas.

To protect yourself, be informed and be on the alert for warning signs.

If you are not sure, get help from someone you trust or a community organisation.

Victims of scams experience losses including:

  • financial losses – from a few dollars to life savings and even the family home
  • non-financial losses and emotional damage to the victims and their families, eg adverse effects on their mental health, work capacity, relationships and family life. 

Types of scams

Investment scams and romance scams are still the biggest sources of financial losses both in New Zealand and overseas.

However, there are many types of scams from up-front fee scams to property promoters who invite you to ‘exclsuive’ property investment seminars with case studies to sell their schemes. New scams are always evolving, so it’s important to look out for warning signs.

Does it seem too good to be true? It usually is.

 

Scammers will try anything to get your money. Scammers will try to take advantage of people seeking health cures or wanting to donate money to a charity. Some general types of scams and what to watch out for are listed below:

Investment scams

Online investment scams and cold calls from share brokers offering fantastic returns are common.


> Read Finance and investment scams to find out more.


Romance and dating scams

With romance and dating scams, scammers usually create fake profiles on real dating websites and groom you into a relationship to get hold of your money or personal details.


> Read Romance and dating scams to find out more.


Upfront fee scams

In an upfront fee scam, a scammer will ask you to pay a fee or give personal information upfront. The scammer promises you something in return but does not deliver. These promises include offers of:

  • a reward in exchange for helping them transfer money overseas
  • an inheritance in exchange for giving them upfront fees or taxes.

Phone scams

In a phone scam, a scammer phones you out of the blue pretending to be from a government agency or organisation. Some common phone scams include calls about:

  • Inland Revenue tax refunds – the scammer tries to collect your personal information or an upfront fee.
  • Computer viruses – the scammer pretends to be a computer technician from a New Zealand company (but is actually based overseas). They tell you that your computer has a virus and promise to sort it out remotely if you pay an upfront fee.
  • Retargeting victims from an original scam – the scammer promise to give the victim their money back if they pay an upfront fee (also called a recovery scam).
  • Charity scams – these scams are particularly common after a natural disaster has occurred and are usually based overseas. The scammer will ask for a donation.

Door-to-door scams

Door-to-door scams include:

  • a salesperson selling fake or worthless products
  • a tradesperson who does poor work or doesn’t show up at all if you have paid upfront
  • someone pretending to do a survey (collecting your personal data, checking out your security systems or what’s in your house).

Postal or mail scams

Postal or email scams usually promise you money in return for doing the scammer a favour.

Visit the Department of Internal Afffairs (DIA) website here (external link)  to find out about the latest postal and lottery scams. 

Overseas lotteries, sweepstakes and competition scams

Even though you haven’t bought a ticket or entered the competition, you have to pay fees or taxes to release the winnings.

Inheritance or estate funds scams

You are apparently the next of kin. You are asked to send money to pay for legal fees or other admin costs to get your inheritance.


Computer hacking

With computer hacking, scammers trick you into giving them access to your computer or to a company’s computer system. They may use phishing emails to gain access or fake social media login pages (eg Facebook) to get your account details and control your profile.

You may be cold called about a non-existent computer virus and persuaded to buy anti-virus software or asked to give scammers remote access to your computer or smartphone. Scammers will then install malware (malicious software) and spyware to control your online activity, steal your personal information, send spam and commit fraud.


Phishing or whaling emails or texts

Phishing scams are emails or texts that pretend to be from banks or other financial institutions or government agencies. They urge you to click on links and enter your personal and financial details into fake websites that are set up to look like the real deal. Banks will never contact you by email to confirm personal or financial information. Alert your bank if you receive one of these emails or texts.


> Read more at Scams and protecting business and customer data and
Identity fraud


Online shopping, fake advertising and auction scams

A common online shopping scam is not getting what you paid for, or getting a lower quality product. An online auction scam includes being asked to pay offline because the winner has pulled out.

Online advertising scams target both buyers and sellers.


Banking, credit card and online account scams

Card skimming: A scammer copies the information from the magnetic strip of a credit or ATM card. They may use a hidden attachment on an ATM or EFTPOS machine or a hidden camera to capture your pin. Once skimmed, the scammer will rack up charges to your account.

Card-not-present: A scammer uses your credit card number and details to pay for products or services without your card (online or by phone).


> Read Finance and investment scams to find out more.


 Employment and visa scams

Online employment scams involve offers to work from home or invest in a business opportunity.Charity, medical, holiday, employment and rental scams


> Read Other scams to find out more about employment and visa scams.


Employment and visa scams

Online employment scams involve offers to work from home or invest in a business opportunity.Charity, medical, holiday, employment and rental scams


> Read Other scams to find out more about employment and visa scams.


 Holiday scams

May include cheap holiday deals or tickets to major events.


> Read Other scams to find out more about holiday scams.


Charity scams

May include cheap holiday deals or tickets to major events.


> Read Other scams to find out more about charity scams.


Rental scams

May include fake rental scams or fake flatmates.


> Read Other scams to find out more about rental scams.


 

 


Avoiding scams

Keep up to date with scam alerts on our website or Facebook page (external link) .

Be aware and learn how to recognise the warning signs. Visit our spotting a scam and staying safe online pages for more details.

If things go wrong

Cease all contact with the scammer

Often, if you are the victim of a scam you may be in denial. Once you’ve realised you are being scammed, stop all contact and avoid sending further payments.

Block the scammer if you have been scammed online. Don’t reply to emails or letters that scammers have sent you.

Unfortunately, if you have been scammed, the chances of recovering your money are not good.

Contact your bank

If you are the victim of a financial scam or credit card scam, contact your bank immediately. They will have a policy in place to deal with fraud.

Do not fall for a ‘recovery’ scam

Don't give anybody any more money on the promise that they will get your lost money back. It's just another scam. Don't believe them if they say they are from a governmental agency and they want you to play along with a ‘sting’ operation.

Report a scam

Report scams online to Netsafe, the Orb (external link) . They will direct you to the organisation best able to investigate or advise you on various types of scams, frauds and spam messages. This information may be used to compile data and publish scam alerts based on the most commonly reported scams.


Next steps

If you are unable to resolve your issue directly, our Resolve It tool has information to help you take the next steps. These may include going to the Disputes Tribunal or District Court.

Resolve it: Scams



Common scams

Lottery winnings scam

You receive a letter and are congratulated for winning a prize or the lottery (although you can't remember buying a ticket). To collect your winnings, you are asked to pay a processing fee.

Inland Revenue scams

Scammers, claiming to be from Inland Revenue, are cold calling people to say they are being investigated for tax fraud. The scammer requests personal information including the person’s Inland Revenue number, before threatening them with legal action. In some cases people are told they must pay a debt urgently or face jail.

Classified scams

Scammers may pose as genuine sellers and post fake ads for rental properties at a rental much lower than comparable items advertised on the same rental site. You are asked to pay a deposit up front before you can inspect the property. There is no such rental property.