Be suspicious of any unexpected contact
If someone contacts you out of the blue, whether by phone, email, in person at your front door, on a website or through social media, always consider the possibility that this could be a scam.
This could be someone you don’t know at all. It could also be an unexpected, out of context email or social media contact purporting to be from someone you do know. For example you might get a Facebook friend request from someone you’re already connected with, or an email from a colleague asking you to click on something.
A lot of scams start with unexpected contact, so it’s best to be super vigilant when this happens to you.
For unsolicited emails, check the sender’s email address
The easiest way to tell the difference between a genuine email from your bank or the Inland Revenue and a scam email claiming to be from those organisations is to check the sender’s email address.
For example, if you emails from your bank usually end in westpac.co.nz and you receive one ending in ".net" or ".com", you should be suspicious. You may also see strange characters or a string of numbers in the email address.
If you have any doubts, call the organisation the email is supposedly from to check. If someone is scamming people using their brand, that company will want to know.
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is
If someone is promising you something amazing, stop and think. Perhaps they’re telling you you’ve won a cash prize in a competition you don’t remember entering. Or it could be inviting you to invest in a scheme that offers incredible returns for very little outlay.
Either way, you should be very wary of anything that sounds too good to be true - and make absolutely sure you do not give any personal information to the scammer.
Ask for the name of the person you’re talking to and the company they say they’re from and do your own research if you think it’s something worth pursuing. But keep in mind scammers can be sophisticated and may set up a trail of evidence so they appear legitimate.
Keep reminding yourself that if it sounds too good to be true it probably is.
Never give out personal information
You should always be very suspicious if someone is asking for personal information, such as a PIN number, online banking password or bank account details. These are details that no legitimate company would ask for.
Don’t be pressured into making a quick decision
Scammers know their best chance of scamming you is getting you to make a quick decision, without thinking through the possible consequences.
A legitimate company will allow you time to consider any financial decision you make. If you’re being pressured to act immediately, that should ring alarm bells.
If in doubt, do your research
Type the company name into Google and see what comes up. It’s also a good idea to search for reviews of the company, or search for the company name and ‘scam’. This will soon show up if other people have fallen prey to the same scam.
When shopping and banking online, make sure the website is secure
Sometimes scammers will make a copycat version of a website, which looks identical to the real thing, in the hope that you will unknowingly enter personal information such as your credit card number.
Legitimate banks and online stores will always have a web address starting with ‘https’. If you see ‘http’ in the web address instead, do not enter any personal information.
Don’t worry about being polite
If someone comes to your door unexpectedly, it’s quite all right not to open the door to them. Likewise, if you receive a suspicious phone call, there is absolutely nothing wrong with hanging up.
Scammers will prey on your natural urge to appear polite, so make sure you don’t give them the opportunity.
Create a strong, unique password for every website you use
This is the best way to reduce your risk when shopping and banking online. If you use the same or similar passwords for different sites, you’re at much greater risk if someone discovers your password.
If you find it hard to remember your passwords, you could consider using a secure password manager such as LastPass.
Never open attachments or click on links in unsolicited emails
If you don’t recognise the sender or you feel suspicious about the content of an email, just delete it.
Keep your virus protection software up to date
Make sure you use a reputable company and update your software regularly. Don’t trust free downloads as they could be fake and end up exposing you to greater risks.
If you think you’ve been scammed:
If you think you’ve been scammed, the first thing to do is stop all contact with the scammer.
If you’ve paid them any money, contact your bank or the payment service you used and explain what has happened.
Next, report the scam to Netsafe, New Zealand’s independent, non-profit online safety organisation. You can report any kind of scam to Netsafe - it doesn’t have to be an online one. Phone 0508 638 723. Netsafe is also a good source of other information on protecting yourself from scams.
If you think the scammer’s actions are criminal (and they usually are), you should also report the scam to the police.
Finally, even though you may be embarrassed, it’s important not to stay quiet about what has happened to you. When you tell other people about the scam, you’re helping reduce the risk of them falling prey to the same scam.
Stay safe out there and, most importantly, be vigilant!
We write these articles for you, our Harmoney borrowers, to be, what we hope, are helpful tools for different aspects of life. The information is designed to be a general guide only. As you read, you should consider how - or if - the information might apply to your circumstances and consider if your needs mean you should seek further advice from an expert in that particular field