Scams and Fraud: Warning Signs

Scams affect people of all backgrounds, ages and incomes across New Zealand. We are continuously getting bombarded with tactics from scammers and at some point, we may be vulnerable to a scam.

One way to protect ourselves is being able to recognise the warning signs of a potential scam. Scammers have become incredibly smart in the way they target people, making it harder to tell a genuine approach from a scam. Knowing the warning signs could help you spot trouble before it’s too late.

If you come across any of the warning signs below, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re dealing with a scam, but you should take precaution and investigate the place/person before sending money or sharing personal information.


1. Wire Transfer

Many scams include a request to wire money electronically using a money transfer service like Western Union. When you use these services, it's like sending cash – once someone has collected the funds it’s almost impossible to recover.


2. Overpayment

If you are selling something (especially online) you should be careful how you get paid. A fraudster may send you a counterfeit cheque that is over the amount they owe you. You will be asked to deposit the cheque and transfer the excess amount immediately back to them. Once the bank realises the cheque is fake you will be accountable for the money withdrawn.


3. Spelling Mistakes

Be wary of email, messages or websites that contain misspelled common words. You should examine email and web addresses closely to see if there is subtle mistakes or differences.


4. Personal Information Request

Be suspicious of people who ask for more personal or financial information than required for the transaction or discussion. Be cautious of people who ask for copies of your passport, drivers licence or birth date, especially if you don’t know them.


5. Unsolicited Calls

If you receive a call from someone claiming you have a virus on your computer, you owe taxes or there has been fraudulent activity in your bank account – hang up and call the organisation yourself. You can find their numbers using trustworthy sources such as their website or invoices and account statements. DO NOT download any remote access software. 


6. Unsolicited Friend Requests (commonly referred to as "catfishing")

From time to time you may receive friend requests from people you don’t know. It is important you don’t accept these requests until you have reviewed their profile or ask your real-life friends if they know them. If their profile is fairly empty, it can be a red flag that this is a scam.


7. Astounding Mail Offers

If you receive mail that claims you have or will win a prize and you haven’t entered a competition, you should throw the card away. It is probably a scam.


8. It’s Just Too Good to be True

Unbelievable discounts and rates may signal the offer isn’t quite what it seems. Cheap prices usually mean cheap products or counterfeit goods and free offers may require you to enter your credit card details for shipping. Small tactics like this can lead to big profits for scammers.