A customer who lost “a good six figure sum” to scammers pretending to help is just one of a growing number BNZ has dealt with over the past year.
Ashley Kai Fong, BNZ’s head of financial crime, said the most notable change in fraud activity over the past year has been the increased volume.
Last year, BNZ found that four out of five people were victims of fraud and more than a quarter were victims of fraud, up 7% from the previous year.
It found that 47% of businesses had been victimized in the last year, up from 21% the year before.
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“Scams are increasing every year, and as the rate increases, so does the toll on New Zealanders and the trail of destruction they leave in their wake,” Kai Fong said.
“Fraud not only harms our finances. They cause injury, shame and embarrassment in their victims and undermine trust in brands, companies and organizations.”
In a recent scam the bank was investigating, a customer was the victim of multiple recovery scams.
In a recovery scam, a scammer steals money and then poses as a bank or police force to help with recovery.
The first scam was an investment scam. The client had been watching YouTube investment videos and followed a link to speak to someone who was advising them on a cryptocurrency investment. But there was no investment and the client lost almost $90,000.
When the scam was discovered, BNZ changed the customer’s passwords and details and secured the account. But then someone pretending to be an investigator for a cryptocurrency company offered to help recover the money. They gained access to the customer’s online banking and stole more money.
BNZ secured the account again and told the customer what to look out for to avoid getting caught in the future. BNZ was unable to recover any of the money.
“Cryptocurrency scams are virtually impossible to recover because they are virtually untraceable transactions,” Kai Fong said.
“This underscores the importance of being wary of anyone calling you out of the blue asking for details or access to your computer.
“If you get one of these calls, it’s best to hang up and call back the number listed on the website, not the one you were called from.”
Kai Fong said people should report that they are a victim of a scam or have been a victim of a scam.
“If you think you’ve lost money or someone has accessed your online banking, call your bank immediately.”
The sooner the bank found out, the better chance they had of getting the money back.
He said some scammers were changing their tactics.
“Unfortunately, as the world comes out of lockdown, these criminals have business plans like everyone else, they just aren’t structured like that. You have plenty of time to catch up. Everyone’s online a little bit more and I think the landscape they can attack in has gotten bigger.”
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Kai Fong said 25% of victims said they clicked a link in an email or text.
“It could be almost anything – a message pretending to be from a bank asking you to urgently confirm a transaction, or a courier company asking you to urgently pay a clearance fee. The link in the text messages looks almost legitimate, making it easy for someone in a hurry to click through.
“But the website is fake. Anything you enter is immediately sent to the scammers and they use the details to log into your real online banking and take your money or charge your debit or credit card.”
He said companies have often been caught out by billing fraud.
In billing fraud, a company’s system is compromised and the bank account number on bills is changed to one owned by a scammer, so payments intended for the company go to the scammer instead.
“In a recent development, we have also seen scammers posing as employees switching the bank account into which their wages are paid. These scams are notoriously difficult to detect and are the leading scam by value of losses.”
In another case investigated by the bank, a woman believed she had met a man who was serving as a missionary in India.
He told her he was stuck in a hotel with Covid-19 and needed money for accommodation and new flights.
When the customer tried to send money to the man, the bank spoke to her to see if they could find any documents proving he was who he said he was.
She couldn’t, but went ahead with the transfer anyway and lost more than $100,000.
In another case, a woman, believing she was being notified by her son on WhatsApp, sent money to a scammer.
“The customer became aware of the scam when they later received another message from the same number, this time saying ‘Hello Dad’. The scammers changed their tactics but accidentally texted the same number,” Kai Fong said.
Data from Cert NZ shows that $3.9 million in direct financial losses were reported in the June quarter due to cybersecurity incidents. About 2,000 incidents were reported, 14% fewer than in the first quarter.
Kai Fong said it was likely a larger number of people were affected but had not come forward because they were embarrassed.