How to avoid online scams

Scams onlineHave you ever received an email saying you have just won $5000 or a new car and all you need to do to claim your prize is provide a few details? Scams like that only have one goal: To get your money. Unfortunately scams have become a lot trickier to spot over the years. Find out how to keep yourself safe.

What is scamming?

A scam is a fraudulent scheme designed to get your money, personal information or something else of value. Scams often come disguised as promises, calls for help or through misrepresentation as government agencies, banks and service providers.
The internet is the fastest and cheapest way to prey on a large number of people, and without having the proper knowledge and security systems in place, anyone can become an easy target. According to the Commission for Financial Capability, cyber crime in New Zealand is costing the country up to $400m per year – that is without traditional frauds such as door-knocking and telephone scams.

How to spot a scam

Scams can come via email, SMS or phone calls, and are getting sneakier every day. They can be hard to spot, as scammers often have convincing fake websites, IDs, letterheads and other materials.

Here are today’s most common scams:

  • Advance fee fraud: You are asked to pay an administration fee before you can claim a prize you supposedly won, start a job you were offered or receive an inheritance. You pay and never hear back.
  • Technical fraud: You might get a phone call from your internet provider saying there is something wrong with your broadband connection, and that in order for them to look into it, they need remote access to your computer to fix the problem or remove a virus that has affected your system. They ask for your login details or might redirect you to a website to download a software. However, instead of fixing your computer, they search for personal data, steal money or commit identity fraud.
  • Phishing: You receive a link to a website via text or email, often claimed to be from a government agency or financial institution, prompting you to enter your personal or financial details. Banks will NEVER contact you via email for your details.
  • Investment frauds: You are asked to invest in a new product or opportunity that promises great returns. Beware of fake financial reports or forged certificates. It’s illegal in New Zealand to sell financial products via cold calling!
  • Invoice scam: You are asked to pay an invoice immediately which is apparently overdue.
    Romance scams: Someone you met online suddenly asks for money or wants you to open up a bank account for them. They either want your money or use your name to transfer proceeds of other scams.
  • Cryptocurrency Scams: If you’re involved in cryptocurrency exchanges such as Bitcoin you can be at a higher risk of being scammed. Fraudsters are using similar scams as mentioned above by promoting cryptocurrency sales.

Keep yourself safe – 5 tips to avoid being scammed

  1. Be suspicious. If you are contacted unexpectedly, always consider the possibility of a scam.
  2. Don’t be naive. Scammers often prey on their victims with promises to get you interested. If it sounds too good to be true, chances are it’s nothing but a way to swindle you.
  3. Don’t act on the spot. NEVER click on links or open attachments from unknown sources. NEVER give out personal information such as credit card details or passwords. NEVER agree to pay upfront for something that is being promised to you. NEVER allow anyone access to your computer – unless you actually have a problem and are contacting a technician you trust.
    Sometimes companies such as Energise will need to access your computer in order to assist you with setting up your email account or provide you with training sessions. However, we will never call you cold handed or out of the blue.
  4. Do your research. Google the name of the company that is approaching you if you haven’t heard of it. Otherwise call the organisation, institution or service provider that is trying to get your data, using their official phone number for verification.
  5. Stay safe. Make sure you have a current anti-virus software on your computer. Check for the padlock symbol in the address bar to ensure you are surfing a secure website. Avoid using public computers and WiFi for internet banking and other sensitive transactions.

I have been scammed – what now?

If you suspect that you have been caught or are being drawn into a scam, shut your computer down, contact the police and report the scam to Netsafe or CERT NZ.
Stop any contact with the person or company that is trying to scam you. Do not use your computer again until you have clearance from a trusted technician. Change all your passwords and opt for two-way verification whenever possible.
If you have already sent money or given out personal data, contact your bank or institution and advise them of what happened so they can take necessary steps on their end to protect your assets.

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