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Phone scams are a common problem, and with scammers becoming increasingly sophisticated in their approaches, it can be difficult to recognise a scam call.

How to recognise a scam call

A scam call may have one or more of these common characteristics:

  • Unexpected contact from someone claiming to be from a trusted organisation, such as a bank, utility provider or even a charity.  
  • The call could come from a blocked or foreign number, but scammers can also disguise the number to look local using a method called number spoofing.
  • Requests for money or personal information such as credit card details or passwords over the phone.
  • Pressure to make a decision quickly or face negative consequences.
  • Telling you that there is a problem with your computer and that they can help you fix it. 
  • Telling you something that you think is too good to be true such as winning a prize in a competition that you don’t remember entering.

Stop and think. Is this for real?

Most organisations will never ring you out of the blue and ask you for your credit card details, bank account number or to access your computer without you knowing why.

If you receive an unexpected phone call which you think is suspicious, stop and think, is this for real?

What to do if you think you have received a scam call

If you receive an unexpected phone call that seems suspicious, it is better to hang up the phone than to engage with the suspected scammer.

You can check whether the call as legitimate by calling the company directly on their number listed in the phone book or on their website. Otherwise, if it was a legitimate call, they will call you back, leave a message or contact you in another way.

Be sure to ignore their instructions and avoid sharing any personal information with the caller including your name, your spouse or relative names, driver licence details, passport details, contact details, credit card details, bank details.

If you think you may have shared credit card or bank details with a scammer, call your bank immediately. If you may have shared a password, change it along with any other accounts that use the same login information. It can also be worthwhile to scan your computer for viruses if a scammer may have accessed your computer.

If you’re unsure the call is legitimate, do not transfer money over the phone or through cryptocurrency (Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, Monero etc.) or gift vouchers or cards (iTunes etc.).

Please report any instances of suspected scam calls to your telecommunications provider as soon as possible so they can investigate the matter and block the number if necessary.  Contact details for reporting scams for each  telecommunications companies are below.

It is helpful if you can provide your telecommunications provider with:

  • Your name
  • Your account number  
  • Your contact number  
  • The number you received the call on 
  • The number you received the call from (if this is available) 
  • The time and dates that the calls were received 
  • A description of what happened on the call

 All scams should also be reported to Netsafe, regardless as to whether it was an internet, phone or other type of scam, and regardless of whether or not you were tricked by the scam. Report a scam to Netsafe here.  

Scam reporting for telcos

2degrees:   https://www.2degreesmobile.co.nz/help-and-support/mobile/products-and-services/making-a-complaint/

Orcon:  https://help.slingshot.co.nz/hc/en-us/articles/360008166993-Scam-and-Nuisance-Calls

Slingshot:  https://help.orcon.net.nz/hc/en-us/articles/360008054154-Malicious-and-Unwanted-Calls

Spark:  https://www.spark.co.nz/help/scams-safety/report-a-scam

Vodafone:   https://www.vodafone.co.nz/help/frauds-scams-and-safety/

What to do if you think you have been scammed

If you think you have been the victim of a scam, follow these steps:

  1. Call your bank immediately to report the scam.
  2. If you’ve been scammed out of money, report the scam to the Police – your service provider will work with them if contacted.
  3. Switch off the device (phone or computer) if you’ve followed any instructions given by the scammer and take it to an authorised technician.
  4. Change any passwords on a different device to the one that has been accessed by scammers.

 More information can be found at scamwatch.govt.nz including a list of agencies who can help if you think you've been a victim of a scam.

Types of scam calls

Below are examples of some of the most common types of scam calls being received by consumers in New Zealand:

"Wangiri" (One Ring and Cut) Fraud

Wangiri calls are typically missed calls from an overseas number, with the caller hanging up after one ring or less, before the receiver can answer. The intention of the scammer is to entice you to call back the number upon seeing a missed call. If you were to call back the number, once connected you could be charged at premium rates while a message plays to encourage you to stay on the line as long as possible. 

A variation on the Wangiri scam happens when an operator answers when you return the missed call, purports to be from a trusted organisation, and then attempts to collect personal information or payment details by fraudulent means.

It is recommended, if you receive a missed call from an unknown overseas number, instead of returning the call, wait for the caller to contact you again to ensure it is a genuine enquiry.

More information:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wangiri

http://www.newshub.co.nz/home/new-zealand/2017/04/had-calls-from-a-weird-overseas-number-lately-here-s-why.html

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"Technical Support" Scam

Typically made from a number disguised as a New Zealand calling code, technical support scammers will often purport to be from a trusted provider (often Microsoft or your telecommunications provider) to sell unnecessary and overpriced “support packages”, or more commonly to gain control or access to your computer. Once access is granted it can then be used to steal personal information in order to commit identity fraud, or to enable other illegal activity.

It is recommended, if you receive an unexpected phone call and are suspicious, hang up and contact the company directly on their number listed in the phone book or on their website.

More information:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technical_support_scam

https://www.netsafe.org.nz/can-i-trust-cold-calling-pc-technical-support-companies/

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“Government Grant” Scam

If you receive a call from someone offering free money in the form of a Government grant or similar, this may be a scammer, and the grant may be fictitious. A scam caller will then try to gain your personal information, and often direct payments, in the form of Western Union, iTunes voucher codes, or similar non-refundable and difficult to trace methods. 

More information:

https://www.grants.gov/web/grants/learn-grants/grant-fraud/grant-related-scams.html

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“Inland Revenue” Scam

Calls made from someone claiming to be from the IRD, and attempting to collect payment over the phone, may be made by scammers.

It is strongly recommended that the best procedure is to hang up and contact the IRD directly, to ensure you avoid scammers while keeping current with any tax obligations.

More information:

http://www.ird.govt.nz/identity-security/scam/scam-alert.html

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“Telco provider” Scam

Calls made from someone claiming to be from your telecommunications provider, and attempting to collect payment over the phone on billing arrears, may be made by scammers. Consumers should beware of anyone who asks for bank account details, internet banking access information, credit card numbers or asks them to perform unusual actions on their computer.

If you receive a call from someone claiming to be your telecommunications provider and are suspicious, it is recommended you immediately hang up and contact the company directly on their number listed in the phone book or on their website.

More information:

https://www.netsafe.org.nz/impersonationscam/

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Targeted Impersonation Scam

A relatively recent type of scam, impersonation scams come in several guises. The defining characteristic of these scams is that scammers will specifically target you and your friends/family members as victims.

These scams may be elaborate and involve several steps in order to research and capture your personal information. Therefore, scammers have a lot of details about you, and use this information to create convincing scenarios, so that these types of scams often appear to be genuine.

Police Scam

This scam often starts by scammers trying to obtain the name and phone number of a victim’s husband or wife, by claiming to be a mail service such as Courier Post delivering a parcel. The scammer then use these details to call the family member, pretending that they are the Police and saying that their relative is in police custody. In some instances, they use a technique called ‘number spoofing’ so that it appears that the call is coming from the relative’s mobile number.

Consumers should beware of anyone who calls them claiming to be from the Police who asks for cash or instant payment via other means such as iTunes vouchers, for the release of family members in custody.

It is recommended if you receive a suspicious call, do not engage with caller, but hang up immediately and report the suspicious call to the Police.

Community Scam

These types of scams are similar to the “Police Scam” noted above. Multiple incidents of phone scams have been recorded within local communities, where scammers have inside knowledge of victims’ families. Consumers should beware of anyone who calls them claiming to be from the Police, and asks for cash or instant payment via other means such as iTunes vouchers, for the release of family members in custody.

It is recommended if you receive a suspicious call, do not engage with caller, but hang up immediately and report the suspicious call to the Police.

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Last Modified On Monday, 21 September 2020