Report a scam

Report a scam to Netsafe.org.nz (external link) or 0508 638 723. They will direct you to the organisation best able to investigate or advise you on various types of scams or frauds.

How to protect yourself online and common online scams.

Online scams to watch out for

A large amount of your personal data may be available through multiple online sources, including websites, email accounts, and social media accounts. Some applications demand access to personal information including GPS (location), credit card details, contacts or address book, texts, calendar and photos. This data has value and can be sold for all sorts of marketing purposes or misused, especially once an account has been hacked so that your privacy is compromised.

Here are some common terms used for online scams and how they work:

Computer hackers

Computer hackers use computer viruses to gain access to your computer details, steal your money and identity, and scam you. They may also get into your computer by wireless network — Wi-Fi.

Computer viruses

Computer viruses are programs or malware that are designed to attempt to infect your computer, smartphone, or other device. They break into your computer and spread from one device to the next as you communicate with others.

Viruses can spread through:

  • computer programs or files that appear to be harmless but actually do damage (trojan viruses)
  • email attachments – the virus then uses your email contacts to attack others
  • documents (macro viruses)
  • the internet (worm) – a worm will make your computer slow down or stop responding.

Spyware

Spyware can track users through advertising that pops up online. If you click on the advertising link you may be taken to a website which can install a virus. The virus can take over your web browser, scan your computer for private information and slow down your computer.

Ransomware 

Ransomware copies personal files or photos from your computer. When a scammer has control of them, they blackmail you. If you don’t hand over the money, they threaten you with the release of images and files to others, to embarrass you.

Scareware 

Scareware is rogue security software, eg antivirus software that hides in pop up adverts or alerts for security software updates. If you click on these you may inadvertently download scareware onto your computer. It may:

  • fail to report viruses
  • say you have a virus when your computer is clean
  • download a virus or spyware onto your computer, which steals your personal information or slows down your computer.

You may also be asked to pay for these fake updates.

Wi-Fi eavesdropping

Wi-Fi eavesdropping can happen if you connect wirelessly and the Wi-Fi network isn’t secure. Other people can also access your internet link if they are within range. Scammers can also set up access to fake Wi-Fi networks in public places. If you log onto the network, they can try to capture personal details, such as passwords and credit card information.

See also:

Protect yourself from online scams

To protect your identity and cash from online scammers:

  • Only allow someone to remotely access your computer if they are from a trusted source, such as your internet service provider (ISP). Scammers will pretend to be your ISP, so use a different contact method to verify their identity.

  • Know who you're dealing with. Research a business or person you’re dealing with online. Type in their name and the keyword ‘scam’ for any scam alerts.

  • Don’t open suspicious or unknown emails, email attachments, texts or pop up messages. Always delete them. If you’re unsure, verify the identity of the sender independently – not by using the contact details they provide.

  • Create passwords which are long, unique and use a mix of random numbers and lower and upper case letters. Make sure you change passwords regularly and don't share them.

  • Keep your mobile devices, Wi-Fi network and computers secure. Use antivirus software and keep it up to date. This software will check for malicious computer programmes and monitor files before they are opened.

  • Know what software you are installing on your computer or phone.

  • Make sure you leave your firewall switched on. A firewall is a security shield that stops scammers getting into your computer.

  • Make sure you regularly install updates to your operating system. Install the latest version of your web browser to get the latest inbuilt security features.

  • Keep your personal and banking details secure. No genuine company or bank will contact you to ask for your log-in details, such as your password or user id.

  • Avoid online offers that are too good to be true. Use a reputable online shopping service. Virtual currencies (like bitcoin) have limited protection so be wary.

  • Block third-party and advertising cookies in your mobile browser or computer settings.

Fake websites are easy to set up and look convincing.


Online shopping or auction scams

A common scam online shoppers experience is receiving faulty or lower quality products or even nothing at all. Scammers may just want your credit card details or they may claim to need extra payments for things like shipping, taxes and insurance.

Take care; price comparison websites and online reviews may be fake or inaccurate.

Fake websites are easy to set up and scammers often use names and website addresses that are similar to those of genuine retailers. For added credibility, they sometimes advertise in genuine online directories and on social networking sites. Or they may pay to be in search engines' featured listings.

Social media ’buy and sell’ pages are also fair game for scammers. So are ongoing monthly subscription services that offer free or low cost trials. Even after you cancel, your credit card is still being charged.

Reputable online auction sites like Trade Me have systems to spot scams. Scammers will often try to take you away from auction sites to do a deal. Use the online auction site to complete the transaction.


Phishing and online account scams

Scammers may use phishing emails or texts to gain your financial details, login and passwords. They will then steal from your account or use your details to commit fraud. You may get an email or a phone call. They may claim there is a problem with your account and ask you to verify your details on a fake copy of the bank’s website. Or they could fake being from a government agency like Inland Revenue and offer you a tax refund.


Online advertising scams

Scammers may hack into online advertisers’ apps that serve the adverts and send you fake adverts online.

Scammers target buyers by placing fake advertisements on real websites for rentals, used cars or other items that are much cheaper than usual. If you show interest, they will claim they are overseas and an agent will deliver the items or keys following payment.

Scammers also respond to genuine advertisements for products or services with a generous offer to buy. They pay by cheque or money order and usually it is more than the agreed price. This is claimed to be by mistake and you are asked for a refund by money transfer. Once this is done you find out their cheque has bounced or the money order was false.


PC Doctor scams

Callers or emails that pretend to be employees of well-known computer companies who have discovered problems or viruses on your computer. They persuade you to give them access to your computer with passwords and security information and then ask for payment and bank details.

Genuine computer companies will never do this. If you need technical help, always call or email your internet service provider's support line or talk to a local computer repair person.

Stop 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.

Read Resolve a problem to find out more.

Do not fall for a ‘recovery’ scam – don’t give away more

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 to Netsafe.org.nz (external link) or 0508 638 723. 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


Need more help?

Contact us for more guidance.

Common situations

PC doctor

You are emailed by ‘Microsoft Windows Support’ and told your PC has a virus or is running slowly. The problem can be solved remotely if you give them your credit card details and/or remote access to your PC.

Fake text

You are texted and told your grandchild has been in a road accident abroad. The text says you need to send money immediately to cover medical costs.

Identity fraud

You are emailed by a fraudster and invited to apply for a ‘guaranteed loan’. After you've given your personal information, including your bank details, you are told to pay an application fee.

Chain letters

The dreaded chain letter has returned. It may appear in the form of, ‘Pass this on and Bill Gates will donate $5 million to charity’. Both the charity and the claim are fake.