NZers report nearly $1m lost to cyber scams last year
New Zealanders lost $674,000 to online dating scams last year, making it easily the biggest internet fraud category in new figures released by Netsafe, which totaled $982,000 in total losses.
NetSafe is marking the second anniversary of their ‘Online Reporting Button’ website this week by publishing figures showing almost $1 million in losses were reported due to cyber incidents.
One person alone was stung for $250,000.
"That loss was under the romance and dating category," Netsafe programme manager Chris Hails told NBR.
"These incidents are typically high value - hence the significant total sum over the 12 months - and are often perpetrated over a long period of time."
"The usual approach is made via an online profile with steady email/chat communication over several months and a genuine sense of trust being established," Mr Hails says.
"Then a small incident like unexpected medical expenses for the scammer or for a child or relative related to the scammer is the norm; usually around $1500.
"We have had people who say they work at an orphanage and need money for that workplace, we have also had reports of the scammer needing money for a passport, visa, or air ticket to get to NZ and meet up.
"If money is forthcoming then the scammer will gradually work to extract larger sums over the course of a year or more."
New Zealanders made more than 1500 reports over the course of 12 months with financial losses rising to $982,690 - a worrying amount of money, but a drop in the bucket compared to an earlier Netsafe-promoted survey that said Kiwis lose $625 million a year to online thieves and fraudsters.
Click graphic to enlarge. Source: Netsafe.
The website is run in partnership with the Police, Customs Service, Commerce Commission, Department of Internal Affairs, Ministry of Consumer Affairs and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner.
“Online scams and fraud make up a large part of what’s being reported to NetSafe,” NetSafe Executive Director Martin Cocker says.
“In many cases we’ve been able to provide help and guidance to those affected – but time is a critical factor. Once you become suspicious, the quicker you make your Orb report the more likely it is that NetSafe will be able to help you.”
“There has been a decline in reports about cold calling technical support companies and a rise in the number of people having their online accounts hacked,” Mr Cocker says..
“As well as suffering financial losses, many people are struggling to deal with the emotional turmoil and stress caused by online break-ins to their email and social networking accounts.”
“There’s also been a marked rise in the number of complaints about online trading, including penny auction sites,” Mr Cocker says. “With more people now shopping online and looking overseas for bargains, many people have fallen victim to fake websites that never deliver the goods they've paid for.”
Trusting Kiwis also unlucky in love
Significant losses were again reported as romance and online dating scams with the sum involved almost doubling to more than $674,000.
“Our general advice to people echoes the simple steps we pushed during June’s Cyber Security Awareness Week: use strong, unique passwords for your important online accounts and be suspicious of spam or phishing messages which direct you to malicious or fake websites.”
"If you’re looking to buy online always be cautious of websites you haven’t dealt with before and if the price seems too good to be true take some time to research the company. Google their name and the words ‘review’ or ‘scam’ to see if other customers have had problems in the past.”
“Lastly, avoid sending money by wire transfer to people you don’t know and if you buy online use a credit card and discuss any problem transactions with your bank.”
Lowlights of the year
NetSafe’s analysis of the Orb reports shows patterns in the type of incidents reported:
- Cold calling computer ‘doctors’ were the number one issue for the second year running and continued to be reported by people around the country throughout the year
- Compromised accounts were a common problem with many people spending time and money to restore access and alert friends to scam or spam emails or chat messages being sent under their name
- The number of reports being made by Aucklanders and Cantabrians rose whilst Southland and Wellington saw steep falls in cyber incidents
- People continued to report phishing emails from banks and the IRD but were increasingly wise to these fake requests for login details
- There was a rise in the number of reports about online harassment and abuse on websites and social networking pages with NetSafe working to develop new relationships to improve safety.
NetSafe remains keen for people affected by a wide range of online incidents to report their experiences via the Orb website so the information can be used to improve cyber safety and security programmes.
“Our cyber security work this year was directly influenced by real life incidents reported by individuals across New Zealand,” Mr Cocker says. “If more people tell us about these kind of issues, then NetSafe and our partners can better focus our resources on improving online safety and security.”
Help and advice from NetSafe
You can report your concerns about online incidents in one central location at www.theorb.org.nz. NetSafe will direct your report through to the partner best able to investigate or advise you, the agency says.