Scam Awareness Week: Monday 4 April - Sunday 10 April
It's Scam Awareness Week 2011 and so it's a good reminder for all New Zealanders to stay on our guard from scammers and their constantly evolving tactics.
Recent research by the Ministry of Consumer Affairs shows that Kiwis greatly underestimate the impact of scams. The research, carried out in January this year and surveying 1,000 New Zealanders, showed some interesting answers to our questions:
How much do we lose to scams?
Around 90% of respondents believe New Zealanders lose less than $300 million a year to scams.
What we know...
We sorely underestimate the loss to scams in New Zealand. In fact, based on overseas research, we can estimate that New Zealanders lose around $448 million a year to scammers.
Where do most scams come from?
Most New Zealanders surveyed (37%) believe that scams originate from Africa.
What we know
Scams can come from anywhere. Scammers can be based anywhere in the world as it's easy to set up a fake email address with the scammer claiming they’re in London when in fact they’re in Eastern Europe, for example.
What's the most reported type of scam?
Most people thought the most widely reported scam to the Scamwatch website is the upfront money transfer or “Nigerian" scam.
What we know
Actually, the most commonly reported scam to Scamwatch is a lottery or prize scam. There’s so many of them around! Scamwatch receives around 3,500 scam reports a year, of which the number one reported scam is lottery and prize scams. This is followed by phishing scams.
The evolving world of the scammers
Over the past year we’ve seen a shift in how the scammers operate, with more reports of scammers using the telephone to try and trick people. We believe this is because people are becoming more adept at spotting a scam email and people may be more trusting of phone calls.
One recent example of a phone scam has been the computer virus cold calling scam. This is where a phone call comes out of the blue with a foreign sounding speaker, advising you that your computer is infected with a virus. They may even claim to be from Microsoft or your Internet Service Provider. They’ll request remote access to your computer, claim it’s full of viruses and request credit card details to ‘fix’ the problem.
Our survey showed that 17% of New Zealanders were solicited with this type of phone call in the last six months.
Our advice remains the same: anyone who receives a call like this should hang up straight away. Remember, you have the power in a telephone conversation to hang up and shouldn't be afraid to do so.
The research report can be viewed here.
Recent scams the Ministry has issued alerts on include…
Rental property scams: scammers make sham ads on flat hunting websites - usually advertising a flash home with very cheap rent. These properties are either fake, or the scammers use pictures and text from recently advertised legitimate properties and fraudulently re-advertise them. If you contact them they then ask for bond and rent money to be wired to them. See more about flatmate scams.
Computer cold calling scam: (as detailed above) a phone call comes out of the blue advising that a person's computer is infected with a virus and requesting credit card details to fix the problem.
Tax back scam: in the form of an email claiming to be from Inland Revenue or a tax rebate company. They want your details in exchange for a tax rebate – but you’ll be asked to send money for ‘administration fees’ or other such charges to release the funds. See more about phishing scams.
Scam Awareness Week
Scam Awareness Week is an initiative run by the Ministry of Consumer affairs in support of a global education campaign initiated by ICPEN (International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network). The first awareness campaign was held in New Zealand in March 2006.
The New Zealand campaign is part of a trans-Tasman initiative of the Australasian Consumer Fraud Taskforce (ACFT) which was established in March 2005 to support the ICPEN initiative. ACFT comprises 19 government regulatory and enforcement agencies in Australia and New Zealand. Public and private sector partners in New Zealand support the Scam Awareness campaigns by helping promote them.
Awareness campaigns are based on the premise that a successful scam involves the response and participation of the consumer. Consumers can avoid falling victim if they are able to make informed decisions when confronted with a possible scam. If consumers recognise when they are being targeted by scamsters and know how to respond then the scam will not succeed.