Everyone is vulnerable to scams, now more than ever. Netsafe has reported large increases in the number of scam and fraud reports on their website this year.

Scammers take advantage of people when they are at vulnerable points in their life, and the COVID-19 pandemic has provided this scenario on a platter for scammers. New Zealanders have had their income restricted and many businesses have been forced to close. As a result, replacing lost income and investment scams have been a common theme during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now, scammers appear to be targeting New Zealanders compassion and goodwill and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has had her image taken advantage of. As reported by Newshub and Stuff.co.nz, a new scam that uses celebrity (or prime ministerial) imagery to create fake accounts and fool kind-hearted people into donating to a fake COVID-19 charity.

The Prime Minister is not able to solicit funds from the public like this. While the government is aware of these scams and has been dealing directly with Facebook to remove these fake accounts as they are discovered, the Prime Minister did have one message to New Zealanders and that is to "look for a blue tick or some kind of authentication that the actual account you are following is real and genuine."

It is always important to verify who you are dealing with before handing over any funds, never hand over important personal or financial information, and know what your rights are. Consumer Protection’s Online Shopping page has more top tips for transacting online and how you can help protect yourself from scams and, as always, it’s important to 'Stop and think, is this for real?'

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