New research from Bank of New Zealand (BNZ) shows a significant jump in scam activity over the past 12 months, with nine out of ten New Zealanders targeted by a scam, up 13 percent on the same time last year.
But while the volume of scams has surged, New Zealanders are getting more scam savvy, with only one in ten falling victim.
The research comes as BNZ launches its annual Scam Savvy Week to raise awareness, help people know how to identify scams, and be safer online.
BNZ’s Head of Financial Crime, Ashley Kai Fong, says, “While it’s fantastic that New Zealanders are learning to spot the red flags, the sheer volume of scams is a stark reminder for all of us to remain vigilant.
“All scams require people to do something – whether that’s clicking on a link, engaging in a conversation, or sending money. Ultimately the best defence against scams is you. If you can recognise the signs of a scam, you’re less likely to fall victim. That’s why BNZ has developed tools and resources to help New Zealanders get scam savvy at www.getscamsavvy.co.nz.”
Businesses getting “con-conscious”
Businesses have also improved their ability to identify and avoid scams, with the number of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) falling victim to scams dropping from 47 percent in 2022 to 34 percent in 2023.
“Scams are a significant threat to our business community, but these figures show that SMEs are taking the right steps to protect themselves,” says Kai Fong.
Despite the reduction, businesses are not being complacent. Reporting of scams to banks has seen a marked increase, with 60 percent of businesses scammed in 2023 reporting the incident, compared to 39 percent in the previous year.
“This underscores the growing awareness among businesses of the importance of swift reporting and robust prevention measures. It’s a clear indication that the business community is recognising the threat posed by scammers,” says Kai Fong.
More people reporting scams, but further progress needed
Reporting by individuals also increased with 64 percent of individuals impacted by a scam reporting it, up from 46 percent last year.
“Reporting scams is a crucial step in fighting fraud,” says Kai Fong. “It provides valuable data to help us understand and combat these threats more effectively, making it harder for scammers to operate.
“It’s great that Kiwis are increasingly reporting scams, but there is still a lot of room for improvement. Too many of us don’t report scams, or even tell loved ones, due to embarrassment or shame, but we need to remember that this is a scammer’s fulltime job.
“Every minute of every day, they are out there thinking of new ways to take people’s hard-earned money. There is nothing to be embarrassed about if you do experience a scam, and by reporting it, you could be helping someone avoid being scammed in the future.”
Top three scams
Government impersonation scams were the most prevalent over the last 12 months (45%), followed by bank impersonation scams (31%), and fake lottery, prize or grant scams (24%).
Email was found to be the most common channel for scams (40%), followed by text (34%), and social media (28%).
“Scammers are becoming increasingly sophisticated, impersonating trusted brands and institutions and exploiting a range of channels to deceive New Zealanders,” says Kai Fong.
Despite the rise in scams, the research shows that educating New Zealanders to spot and avoid scams is helping to keep them safe.
“Around two-thirds of those surveyed reported having seen educational material about scam prevention,” he says. “Knowledge is power. We want as many people as possible to get Scam Savvy as the more we know about scams, the better equipped we are to spot and avoid them.”
Our Scam Savvy tools are available online at www.getscamsavvy.co.nz.
Top tips to get Scam Savvy
- Don’t click on links or open attachments sent by someone you don’t know or seem out of character for someone you do know. Hover over links to reveal the actual site.
- If it doesn’t seem right, call the sender using contact details you already have or that are available on their public website.
- Urgency is a red flag – scammers will try to rush you.
- Banks will never ask for your bank account details, password or pin number, nor will they send you an email or text message with a link asking you to log in.
- Keep your computer and phone security software up to date.
- If you think you’ve been scammed, contact your bank as soon as possible.
- Trust your gut – if it feels wrong, it probably is.
Scam Savvy Research
Other key findings from BNZ’s research:
- One in ten New Zealanders have fallen victim to a scam in the last 12 months, losing money, personal information, bank or card details, or device access
- Of those that lost money, two thirds (69%) lost under $500, 26 percent between $500 and $5,000, and five percent over $5,000
- Email is the most common way to have fallen victim to a scam (40%), followed by text (34%), social media (28%), phone calls (18%), online websites (9%) or by someone you know (3%)
- Those aged 15 – 34 years are more likely to have been targeted via social media (44%)
- Social media and online website scams are harder for victims to recover stolen money, with 56 percent of victims who were targted via social media and 22 percent of victims targeted via an online website saying they couldn’t recover their money
- Those over the age of 50 are more likely to be targeted by tech scam calls
- One in ten males has responded to a dating or romance scam in the last 12 months, significantly higher than females
- Females are more likely to be more concerned about their personal data online
- 45 percent of SMEs reported being the target of scam attempts in the last year
- Of those targeted, one third have responded to a scam attempt, by clicking on a link (15%), or replying to the scam via email, text, or phone call (14%)
- Almost half (47%) of scam attempts are by email, with another 38% by text message. One third (33%) are by phone calling, with websites (19%) and social media (18%) rounding out the top 5
- One in five (22%) of SMEs reported falling victim to a scam in the last 12 months
- 43 percent of businesses that fell for a scam reported a financial loss. Of those, more than half lost less than $500, 38 percent between $501 and $5,000, and 11 percent lost more than $5,000. It is important to note that losses to scams are not just financial, and can include data loss, operational impacts, technical damage and/or reputational damage