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Phone scams are a common problem, and with scammers becoming increasingly sophisticated in their approaches, it can be hard 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 comes from a blocked or foreign number.
  • 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 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?
 
If you are unsure, it is better to hang up the phone call than to engage with the suspected scammer. Chances are, it would have been a scam. If it was a legitimate call, they will call you back or have other ways to get in touch with you, such as email or post.   

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

If you receive an unexpected phone call that seems suspicious, the best action to take is to hang up. Do not share any personal information with the caller. 

If the caller has told you they are from a particular company, ring the company (find their number online, don’t call back the number they called you from) and alert them to the call you have just received. They will let you know if it was a legitimate call. 
Please also report any instances of suspected scam calls to your telecommunications provider so they can investigate the matter and block the number if necessary.  It is helpful if you can provide your telecommunications provider with the time, date and number that called you.
 
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.  

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. Ignore the calls and caller’s instructions.
  2. Do not provide any personal details at all including your name, your spouse or relative names, driver licence details, passport details, contact details, credit card details, bank details, or transfer of money over the phone or through Cryptocurrency (Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, Monero etc.) or gift vouchers or cards (iTunes etc.)
  3. Scammers may use caller ID spoofing technology to mask the phone number the call is coming from, and display a different number. Calls that appear to be from a local number, or number that belongs to someone you know, may not be originating from New Zealand at all. If you receive a suspicious call from a local number, hang up, wait five minutes, then call the number back to check the validity of the request (this step does not provide 100 per cent guarantee as scammers may purchase NZ numbers and use them to funnel calls overseas, but provides good verification in case they are spoofing spouse/friend/relative or NZ government agency/company numbers).
  4. 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.
  5. Report any incidents of scam calls, including Wangiri calls, to your service provider. If you are the victim of a targeted scam where the callers have access to your personal information, also contact NZ Police or CERT NZ.
 

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.

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 do call back the number, once connected you may be charged at premium rates, while a message plays to entice 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.

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 made to resemble a New Zealand calling code, technical support scammers will often purport to be from a trusted provider (such as Microsoft or Spark) 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.

If you receive an unexpected phone call, be cautious and return the call, dialling a registered number for the company, agency or individual who is claiming to contact you.

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. 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 telco 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, ask for contact details such as their name, position and phone extension, and ask them how to reach them via official communications methods published on their website. Hang up and follow instructions to call them back on the provider's officially published number, to check on the status of your account.

More information:

www.consumerprotection.govt.nz/get-guidance/scams-and-online-safety/scams

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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. 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. 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

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. 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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What to do if you are targeted by scammers:

No two scams will be the same, but if you receive any type of suspicious call, we recommend you follow the procedure below:

1. Ignore the calls and caller’s instructions. Ask for any information you may need to verify the call's authenticity, then hang up.

2. Do not provide your name, your spouse or relative names, driver license details, passport details, contact details, credit card details, bank details, or transfer of money over the phone or through Cryptocurrency (Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, Monero etc.) or gift vouchers or cards (iTunes etc.)

3. Scammers may use caller ID spoofing technology to mask the phone number the call is coming from, and display a different number. Calls that appear to be from a local number, or number that belongs to someone you know, may not be originating from New Zealand at all. If you receive a suspicious call from a local number, hang up, wait five minutes, then call the number back to check the validity of the request (this step does not provide 100% guarantee as scammers may purchase NZ numbers and use them to funnel calls overseas, but provides good verification in case they are spoofing spouse/friend/relative or NZ government agency/company numbers).

5. 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.

6. Report any incidents of scam calls, including Wangiri calls, to your service provider. If you are the victim of a targeted scam where the callers have access to your personal information, also contact NZ Police or CERT NZ.

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Last Modified On Wednesday, 14 August 2019