STAY VIGILANT KIWIS: BNZ sounds warning on COVID-19 scams

Bank of New Zealand (BNZ) is encouraging kiwis to stay vigilant as scammers seek to take advantage of COVID-19 uncertainty.

In the past few weeks, scams purporting to be the World Health Organisation, an infection map tracker and the more standard tech support, Netflix and streaming service password scams have taken advantage of people searching for coronavirus information and an increase in online activity as more people spend time at home.

Ashley Kai Fong, BNZ Head of Financial Crime, says, “During these uncertain times, people are hungry for information and in a hurry, and are dropping their guard when it comes to staying safe online.

“Scammers are scumbags. They see a large, global event like coronavirus as an opportunity to exploit people. They mimic the organisations we trust and pretend to be services we see as vital during times of crisis so they can steal passwords and install malware on people’s devices.”

Kai Fong says BNZ has seen emails pretending to be the World Health Organisation offering coronavirus information that takes them to a site that then installs malicious software on their device or tricks people into sharing personal information.

He says there is also a campaign where people are targeted with the offer of an COVID-19 infection map application that tracks the progress of the virus around the world, but when they install it on their device, it steals passwords and other sensitive information.

“Scammers are also targeting those in isolation with emails saying their Netflix or other streaming service subscription has lapsed. It takes you to a fake site which then steals credit card information and other banking details,” says Kai Fong.

Kai Fong says while scammers might be adept at mimicking brands we know and trust, there are giveaways that help recognise scams.

He says, “At a time when everyone’s indoors and isolated, the best thing Kiwis can do is take a breath, don’t rush and remember a few simple steps on how to recognise a scam.

“Don’t share your personal information online. If you aren’t sure whether something is legit, find another way to contact the organisation to check.

“Scammers know we’re more susceptible and prone to making a bad decision when we’re in a hurry. If you feel hurried or put under pressure by an email take that as a warning sign that it’s probably a scam.

“Many companies are proactively contacting their customers during this uncertain time to tell them what they are doing in response to COVID19. However, even with the increase in communications from companies, they won’t ever contact you asking for personal information. If they do, that’s a huge red flag.

And Kai Fong says that if you think you have lost money to a scam, contact your bank immediately.

“If you think you’ve been scammed, get in touch with your bank as soon as possible. The quicker you do, the more chance we have of recovering lost funds from these scumbags,” he says.

For further information on how to stay safe online go to