Scammers, fake charities, fraudsters, cheats. They’re constantly thinking up new ways to trick you out of your money.
The internet with online banking, shopping, and social media has given criminals new opportunities and led to increasingly sophisticated scams. Sadly, each year thousands of Kiwis get caught.
Some people have lost hundreds of dollars, others their entire life savings. But there are simple things you can do to protect yourself.
From 11-17 November it’s Fraud Awareness Week, the perfect time to learn about some of the common scams out there, and beef up your defences. You might be surprised at how easy it is to reduce your risk.
Stop and think. Is this for real?
Be suspicious. It can feel like a negative approach but if you always take your time and consider the angles, you’re less likely to get caught. Offers that are too good to be true, usually are. If someone’s asking for money, personal information, passwords, credit card numbers, PIN or bank details, red lights should be flashing in your head.
Don’t trust unexpected contact. Scams often come through unexpected phone calls, knocks at the door, or emails from people you don’t know.
Do your research. Always find out more before considering any offers. Use Google to look into people or companies, talk to family or friends, and see what they think.
Successful scams appear legitimate. To build trust they’ll often use one piece of information they have about you, to get more. For example, they may know what power company you use, or who you bank with.
Scammers can convincingly copy letterheads, logos, websites, and ID badges. If you’re suspicious, don’t use the details they supply, contact the company independently.
Resist demands to act quickly. Scammers will often leverage your emotions. But anyone offering a legitimate opportunity will allow you time to consider your response. So if you feel pressured, back out. Take time to think about it, run it past other people, or just turn it down.
Protecting yourself online
Keep your virus protection up to date. Use a well-known, trusted company – not free downloads as they could be fake. Talk to your local computer services company if you’re not sure.
Don’t open attachments or click on links. If you don’t know the sender or the words or images in an email make you feel unsure, delete it.
Use different passwords for different online services. That way if some of your information is compromised, you won’t lose it all.
Reserve the right to be impolite. Sometimes you need to be firm to keep yourself safe. It’s OK to say no if you have a bad feeling about something.
If you think you’re being scammed:
1. Immediately stop all contact with the scammer.
2. Contact the bank or service you sent money through.
3. For more advice and information, go to Scamwatch.govt.nz
Whether it’s online, over the phone, or in person, the key to avoiding scams is knowledge. So this Fraud Awareness week take the time to read about some common scams, visit Consumer Protection. Don’t rush, think things through, discuss it with others, and stop and think; Is this for real?