September 26, 2023

More than a third of New Zealanders encounter attempted scams every week according to research commissioned last year by Avast, a global specialist in digital security and privacy. Given that level of criminal activity, it’s inevitable that some people will fall victim to scammers. If you have been scammed, here are the steps you should take to minimise your losses and prevent the situation getting worse.

Stop all contact with the scammer
Once you realise you are being scammed, do not continue the conversation. Hang up the phone. Don’t reply to emails or letters scammers have sent you and block any further contact.

Do not make any further payments
After being exposed, some scammers may pose as enforcement agencies promising to help you recover your money for a fee Never make payments to anyone based on promises to recover lost funds.

Contact your bank
If you are a victim of a scam, credit card fraud, or identity theft, contact your bank immediately (and the service you used for the transaction if it wasn't your bank). The sooner you alert them to the situation, the greater the likelihood they will be able to help get some of your money back.

Report the scam to NetSafe
If you report what’s happened to NetSafe, they can get back to you with advice and may also forward your report to another agency such as the police. You can make a report online at the NetSafe website or by calling Freephone 0508 638 723 (from New Zealand only).

Change your passwords
If there is a chance the scammer has gained access to your email, it’s important to change your password straight away. Change your passwords for other online accounts as well, especially if you use the same password across multiple platforms or accounts. Select unique online passwords for each account, ensuring they are not passwords you've used before. For extra security, you want to consider using a password manager which can store all your passwords securely, so you don't have to worry about remembering them. 

Get in touch with credit reference agencies
Scammers can use information they have gathered about you to sign up for loans or services in your name, so it pays to check if there have been any credit checks made on your account. There are three main credit reporting companies in New Zealand: Centrix, Equifax (formerly Veda), and illion (formerly Dun & Bradstreet). You can ask for your credit report from each company online and also ask these agencies to temporarily supress your credit information which should stop scammers from using your identity to rack up debt.

Check your devices for viruses
Viruses can enable cybercriminals to access everything on your computer or mobile, including new passwords you've set. Therefore, it's crucial to ensure your devices are free from viruses. Always have an antivirus software on your computer and if you suspect a scammer has gained access, disconnect the device from the internet. To be extra safe, you could ask a reputable IT person to check your computer for viruses before you go online again. Also keep all your software up to date – that helps keep your accounts and information secure.

Look out for suspicious activity
Monitor your accounts and email for anything unusual, such as unauthorized changes to passwords or security questions, or emails you haven't sent. Check your deleted email folder for any emails that you have not seen or have not sent.

Warn your contacts
Scammers can use the details they have obtained to impersonate you so it’s important to let friends, family and other contacts know to be wary of any links or requests that ap-pear to come from you.

Talk about your experience
Don’t be embarrassed about being the victim of a scam. It’s an incredibly common occurrence and the only people who win when those impacted keep quiet are the scammers. Share your experience with others so they can learn to recognise scams and have a better chance of avoiding them.