It’s Scams Awareness Week (21–25 May 2018)! This year we are focused on threat-based impersonation scams. We encourage you to take a moment, ‘Stop and check: is this for real?’
How do these scams work?
Scamwatch claims that almost 85% of reported cases relating to threat-based impersonation scams were perpetrated over the phone. The remaining were via email.
In threat-based impersonation scams, offenders pretend to be from a government agency or well-known company. Their aim is to scare you into parting with your money or personal information and if you don’t, they threaten you with fines, disconnecting your internet, taking you to court, arrest or even deportation.
Some offenders impersonate government officials and might say you have an outstanding tax debt or that there are problems with your government benefits, immigration papers or visa status, and you need to pay the debt or other fees to fix the problems.
Offenders also pretend to be from trusted businesses and organizations, including energy or telecommunications providers like Spark or Vodafone, banks like BNZ, ANZ or Kiwibank and law enforcement agencies like Police. They may call and ask for remote access to your computer to fix a problem or they may email you fake invoices or fines, and threaten to cancel your service or charge you excessive penalty fees if you don’t pay them immediately.
If the offender sends an email, it may include an attachment or a link where you can download proof of the ‘bill’, ‘fine’ or ‘missed delivery details’ but opening the attachment or downloading the file could infect your computer with malware.
How can you protect yourself?
When dealing with uninvited contacts from government agencies or trusted businesses – whether over the phone, by email, mail, in person or through social media – always consider the likelihood that it is a scam.
If you’re unsure whether a call or email is genuine, verify the identity of the contact by doing an online search, then get in touch with them to ask if they contacted you. Don’t use the contact details provided by the caller or in the message they sent to you. It’s important that you don’t feel pressured by a threatening caller. Hang up, take a moment to assess the caller’s story.
If you do respond to threatening emails or voicemail messages asking for you to call someone back the scammers may increase their intimidation and attempts to get your money.
If you’re still unsure, speak to a trusted friend or family member about what has happened.
Tips to remember:
- Never send money or give your bank account details, credit card details or other personal information to anyone you don’t know or trust, and never by email or over the phone.
- A government agency or trusted business will never ask you to pay by unusual methods such as with gift or store cards, iTunes cards, wire transfers or Bitcoin.
- Don’t open suspicious texts, pop-up windows or emails and don’t click on links or open attachments – just delete them.
- Never give anyone remote access to your computer if they’ve contacted you out of the blue – whether through a phone call, pop up window or email – and even if they claim to be from a well-known company like Spark or Vodafone.
If you’re suspicious of an email or phone call you’ve received or you are concerned that you may have been taken in by a scam, you should contact BNZ immediately on 0800 ASK BNZ (275 269) or + 64 4 470 9021 as soon as possible.