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By Bronwyn Groot National Security Fraud
Every day, New Zealanders are plagued by scams that potentially can have a significant impact on their lives. Unfortunately many of these crimes go unreported and the perpetrators are becoming increasingly sophisticated.
Juno speaks with Bronwyn Groot from BNZ about some of the more common scams and how to avoid falling victim to them.
The phone rings. It’s someone who says they are from John Key’s office and they have good news – you have been chosen to win a special ‘model citizen’ grant from the Prime Minister’s office! Sounds fantastic, right? Maybe less so when they say you need to give them your bank account details. You also need to set up a new debit card from that account. Finally, that account has to have at least NZ$2,000 in it.
At this point, many people might have twigged that this is a scam. But this is not the case for everyone. For some people, the phone call may have sounded legitimate – especially when the person on the phone does a fantastic job of making it sound convincing.
Scams are rife
This is one of a plethora of scams that many New Zealanders come across every day. Fraud in all forms – including online, postal, phone and mail – is increasing in both impact and complexity every year. The police and the Department of Internal Affairs, as well as many businesses, are doing their best to track these scams and educate people about them.
Think of a situation and you’ll almost certainly find a scam that goes with it – dating, inheritance, banking, door-to-door and home maintenance scams, to name a few. Even the most savvy investors have been hoodwinked by cold-calling investment scams.
The scammers running these operations have a sophisticated pitch that sounds genuine. This is usually backed up with authentic-looking, but fake, websites and information. It’s not uncommon for scammers to swindle hundreds of thousands of dollars out of people before their victims realise that all is not what it seems. Sadly, once the scam has been identified, many people are too embarrassed to admit they have been conned.
Being scam savvy
BNZ does its best to educate customers and the wider community. Its Scam Savvy workshops, often aimed at older and more vulnerable customers, talk people through the most common scams, how to identify them and what to do to avoid them. Scam Savvy expert Bronwyn Groot works with people every day who have been the victims of scams, and knows what a massive impact these can have on people’s lives.
Groot says: “It’s heart-breaking to see how these scams have affected some people. The scammers are smart. They prey on those who are lonely or vulnerable, and once they have them on the hook they don’t let go. Some of the worst scams I have seen involve people getting calls supposedly from the police following up after the scam has been reported. But the purported call from the police wasn’t official at all – it was another scam.”
Groot encourages victims to report scams and ask for help. “The more we know about these scams, the better we can help others avoid them. BNZ will never be upset with anyone for falling for something like this. We want to protect our customers, and our company, from any future fraudulent activity.”
Precautions you can take
Groot is often surprised at the things people forget about when it comes to protecting themselves from scams. For instance, making sure your PIN number isn’t obvious (date of birth for example, which is easy for scammers to find out) and never letting your credit card out of your sight.
Avoiding scams isn’t just an issue for older people. People of all ages and types fall for scams every
day, especially as the scams become more intricate and targeted. By taking some sensible steps and being sceptical of requests for information, you can reduce the risk of being conned out of your hard-earned money.
How to avoid falling for scams:
• Keep bank cards and money in sight – and preferably in your possession – at all times.
• If you receive a phone call and are unsure about the authenticity of the caller, ask for their name and let them know you’ll call them back. Then dial the organisation’s listed number and ask to be transferred to the person you spoke with. That way you can be sure you’re speaking with a genuine staff member from a legitimate organisation.
• When making financial transactions online only use trusted and secure websites by looking for https:// at the beginning of the web address bar and the padlock icon in your browser window.
• Avoid clicking on links embedded within emails that appear to be from your bank or a government department. Contact the organisation using their listed number to confirm the email is legitimate. Links and attachments in scam emails often contain harmful viruses and malware that give scammers access to your computer. This results in scammers having the ability to access your personal information and attempting to steal your money.
For more information on scams visit:
Department of Internal Affairs
Alternatively, report any mobile phone scams to 7726.