New phishing scam hits New Zealand during Fraud Awareness Week

Published:  14 Nov at 6 PM
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In spite of endless warnings about online and offline financial fraud, it’s still a major problem across the world, with expats particularly vulnerable.

Financial crime is still the most likely crime to hit ordinary people across all first-world countries, in spite of countless efforts by the media, financial authorities and police worldwide. It seems that as the warnings get louder, the crooks get smarter and more people find they’ve lost their savings.

Expats, especially retirees, are at risk due to the fact they often have pension pots or life savings to invest. It’s not just everyday folks who get caught by the fraudsters, with well-known British TV personality Gloria Hunniford losing £120,000 from her UK bank account due to an innovative fraud involving face-to-face contact between a bank teller and an imposter.

On the other side of the world during New Zealand’s Fraud Awareness Week, a phishing operation hit one of a local newspaper’s financial team, potentially losing her some £14,000. Thanks in part to the so-called convenience of internet banking, financial scams are getting more and more sophisticated, using official-looking texts, emails and websites cloned from official bank sites.

The latest Kiwi victim had received an email touting a new app supposedly being offered by her bank. Clicking on, she saw all the expected security and password loops as well as the bank’s well-known branding. When she realised she’d been had and compared the fake site with her bank’s genuine site, only one single word was different – enough to fool even the most careful online bank account holder.

The International Fraud Awareness Week is focusing on publicising warning signs indicating a possible scam, hoping against hope to help investors stay one jump ahead of the fraudsters. Most are obvious, such as offers that sound to good to be true, requests for personal, credit card and/or account details and vague contact details. However, others such as an unexpected email contact by your bank, requests for a quick decision or offers of prizes may seem less suspicious.

Hopefully, anyone who might not be alerted by an instruction to keep an offer secret, or who can’t find relevant information in writing but still goes ahead and pays up-front for a ‘special deal’ might well take note of the increased risks of financial fraud. The Kiwi victim’s tale had a happy ending as her bank, suspecting the first withdrawal by the fraudsters might be suspicious, kept the funds in a holding account rather than completing the transaction. Many others, however, might not have been so lucky.
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