New Zealanders should take extra care to avoid scams as the end of the financial year approaches, warns BNZ’s Head of Financial Crime, Ashley Kai Fong.
“Scammers frequently take advantage of current events and trends to exploit heightened public awareness and media coverage. There’s an increased risk of scams attempting to use the end of the financial year as a hook to reel in victims,” he says.
“Tax scams are seasonal and every year we see scammers attempting to impersonate government agencies like Inland Revenue to deceive people into handing over sensitive financial information, including their personal banking details.”
“We’ve seen a 185 percent increase in IRD phishing scams in the last financial year, so it’s really important for New Zealanders to be cautious with emails that appear to come from IRD or other government agencies, especially if they contain links or request personal information.”
Kai Fong advises, “Always check the legitimacy of email links and senders’ addresses, look for poor grammar and spelling, and remember that tax returns are always completed in the secure online MyIR portal.
“Scammers rely on their victims being in a rush, not noticing discrepancies compared to a genuine tax return and falling for the temptation of bogus tax refunds. Scammers are sophisticated and the fake refunds tend to be for realistic amounts of money to avoid rousing suspicion.”
The anatomy of a tax scam
Earlier this year, a customer received a deceptive text message purporting to be from the IRD. It informed them they’d received a new message from the government and provided a link to view it. The link prompted the customer to provide personal information, including their bank access number and password.
With these details, the offender registered a new device on the customer’s internet banking. During this process, the customer received a series of activation codes via text and email.
Although BNZ’s unique activation codes include warnings not to share them with anyone, the customer unfortunately provided the codes to the scammer, granting them full access to their internet banking.
With the new device activated, the scammer stole over $50,000. After BNZ was informed of the scam, efforts were made to recover the stolen money, but only a little over $20,000 could be retrieved.
Kai Fong emphasises that scams like this can have devastating consequences for victims, and regrettably, the stolen money cannot always be recovered.
“That’s why your first and best line of defence is vigilance. Take the time to read all messages from your bank. Trust your instincts and always take a sec to check before providing sensitive information,” he advises.
In case of suspicious activity or suspected scams, BNZ encourages anyone who believes they may have fallen victim to a scam to contact their bank immediately.
For more information on protecting yourself from scams, visit www.getscamsavvy.co.nz.