From criminals impersonating family members online to get cash to tens of thousands of dollars lost in NFT scams, online scams are becoming more varied, and increasingly sophisticated.
While there has been a lot of attention recently on violent ram-raids, data from CERT reveals thousands of Kiwis are becoming victims of online crime, with $31.5m lost in the last two years.
Most prevalent were “phishing scams”, where criminals try to mimic an authentic message – often an email or text – from a trusted source. Many pretend to be from financial institutions such as banks or Inland Revenue, but others can come from criminals impersonating family members.
One person told 1News a relative had lost thousands of dollars after being asked for money on WhatsApp from someone pretending to be their child.
“Phishing has been around for decades, but what we have seen is the approaches and techniques by these cyber baddies have evolved over time,” said CERT NZ director Rob Pope.
He said they aimed for “social engineering triggers”, such as preying on fears, opportunities, and urgency to get their scams across to “very trusting New Zealanders”.
“That seems to be the key trend,” he said.
In the first quarter of 2022, 1370 – the overwhelming majority of incidents reported to CERT – were related to phishing and credential harvesting, the highest number reported in the past two years.
The second highest incident type were scams and fraud – the majority of those relating to people buying, selling or donating goods.
It is something Canterbury woman Jayden Brown knows well after she bought a “mystery box” from a seller on TikTok.
“I put a payment through, but it was weird because they only wanted a bank deposit or a PayPal account,” she told 1News.
She chose to put a bank deposit through, but never received the product.
“I emailed them, and I also commented on one of the TikTok videos asking if they could get back to me and then I was blocked on every form of social media.”
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Pope said every part of the country is “affected in one way, shape or form – we see that regularly”.
“People are either sucked in or seduced by an attractive offer, and common sense goes out the window.”
NFT scams were also on the rise. In the first quarter of 2022, eight incidents were reported. The combined financial loss was about $50,000.
“It’s an emerging area, but it is highly unregulated and very attractive in terms of returns,” he said.
“It’s a perfect storm.”
Pope said anyone concerned about becoming victims of online crime that “prevention is better than cure”.
“It’s much better to manage the situation before something nasty happens.”
He said up to 80% of cyber security issues reported could be avoided by simple steps like two-factor authentication and the use of long and strong passwords.
“Pause and think before you act on clicking a link or an urgent email,” he added.
“Try and verify it independently – either by contacting the actual company by phone or a Google search, or even contact a friend.”