Scammers fleece online bank customers

One in ten people hit on are losing around $5000 each.

Scammers are finding rich pickings among New Zealanders who do online banking.

One in ten people hit on are losing around $5000 each, often as a result of responding to hoax emails purporting to be from their bank and requesting them to update personal information such as pins and logon details.

"Your bank will never ask you for this confidential information," says New Zealand Bankers Association chief executive Martin Philipsen.

Scammers are pocketing $400 million a year from online and electronic fraud, triggering the consumer affairs ministry to set up a new cross-agency group dedicated to putting them out of business.

It will be chaired by the ministry and supported by the department of internal affairs' (DIA) anti-spam compliance unit and Netsafe.

Consumer affairs minister Chris Tremain says the group will "combine their resources to raise awareness, identify trends and provide comprehensive data to enforcement agencies."

The Bankers Association says New Zealanders should also be aware of websites that ask for personal banking details. "These can redirect you to a replica of your bank's website which is designed to steal personal information", Mr Philipsen says.

In the past people taken in by such fraud have often borne much of the liability but a public backlash has resulted in banks adopting a more lenient stance and victims are now being covered for losses in cases of genuine fraud.

Banks say customers can help them fight online fraud by: . not giving pin numbers or internet usernames or passwords to anyone. . keeping anti-virus and firewall software up to date. . logging on to internet banking by typing in the bank's full web address and not using links that appear to take them to the bank's website. . checking they have a secure connection which is shown by a padlock symbol somewhere on the page and that the website address starts with "https://". (the "s" stands for "secure"). . not using public computers in internet cafes, libraries or hotels for internet banking. . only providing information such as their date of birth, address, driver's licence number and passport details to trusted people and organisations.

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