Human hacking is on the rise: Kiwis being urged to stop and think
New Zealand has seen an 15% increase in scams over the past calendar year, and we will have lost $70 million to scammers
by Christmas, according to high level estimates from the Banking Ombudsman for Fraud Awareness Week (11-17 November).
“Some of the cases we’re seeing are just devastating – people are losing their lifetime savings. I don’t think people
realise the true extent of this epidemic,” says Banking Ombudsman, Nicola Sladden.
“A lot of people know to be wary about the classic telco call saying there’s something wrong with your internet or your
computer. Or they know an email that is full of typos is likely to be a scam.
“But the scams are getting much more sophisticated than that now.
“They’re not just hacking your phone or your computer – they’re hacking you and your human emotions. They look for a way
to play on your reactions so they can trick you into giving away your details or making a payment, or letting them have
remote access to your computer.
“They use different tactics to throw you off guard - fear you’ve put your computer security at risk, excitement that
you’ve won a prize, tempting you with a good deal, or playing on the fact that you’re in a hurry and won’t suspect a
fake invoice that looks like the one you were expecting.
“Think of how a pick pocket creates a distraction so you focus on that instead of the hand in your pocket.
“This is highly organized crime targeting ordinary smart people. We’ve seen people impacted right across the community.
Our role is to help people if they have any problems with their banking and they haven’t been able to sort it out with
their bank. Banks are required to have appropriate security systems in place and inform customers about banking products
“Banks are required to keep their banking systems secure. Bank systems can detect some unusual spending patterns and
prevent attempts by fraudsters to access accounts. However, once a customer authorises a payment to a fraudster, it is
usually gone. “
In one case seen by the Banking Ombudsman, the complainant met a man on an online dating site and all the signs
indicated he was in Wellington. After talking to the complainant for two months, the man said he was going overseas to
work as a mining engineer. When he arrived at his new job, he told the complainant his briefcase containing important
documents and his laptop had been stolen.
The complainant bought and sent a laptop overseas. The man then started requesting money because his New Zealand
currency and cheques weren’t accepted by the local banks, each time promising that he would pay her back on his return
to the country. The complainant sent almost $45,000 to the scammer in total. Because of the way the complainant had been
groomed into making the payments, there were no red flags to alert the bank that the payments were unusual.
“Banks will always need to keep their systems secure but consumers and businesses also need to think of themselves as a
first line of defence. We all need to understand the types of threat posed by scammers, and the ways in which we can
As part of Fraud Awareness week, Kiwis are being urged to Stop & Think: is this for real?
· A genuine bank or organisation will never contact you to ask for your PIN, password or to move money to another
· Never click on a link in an unexpected email or text – you could be giving access to your personal and financial
· Always question uninvited approaches in case it is a scam. Instead, contact the company directly using a known email
or phone number.
· Don’t assume an email or phone call is authentic – just because someone knows your basic details (name and address, or
mother’s maiden name) it doesn’t mean they are genuine.
· Don’t be rushed into making a decision or financial transaction on the spot – a genuine bank or trusted organisation
would never do this.
· Listen to your instincts – if something feels wrong then it generally is.