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.