ZB

Scams going unreported as victims turn to online communities

Author
RNZ,
Publish Date
Wed, 25 May 2022, 12:47pm
Photo / File
Photo / File

Scams going unreported as victims turn to online communities

Author
RNZ,
Publish Date
Wed, 25 May 2022, 12:47pm

By RNZ

Cyber security CERT New Zealand's latest figures show more than 500 reports out of 2333 incidents were related to scams and fraud in the first three months of the year.

Michelle, who manages a 16,000-member Facebook group that aims to name and shame scammers, said the problem is far bigger than the officials know.

"Being on this page has really highlighted for me just how common and how frequent and prevalent scams are, and I think if you put too much emphasis on the police dealing with them, they'd just be inundated."

She said a community-based approach to hunting down scammers allows for quick information sharing and transparency.

"The more we can actually publish these scams, get these scams out there into the public arena so that people are aware of them, then hopefully people can start avoiding them."

One scam victim, Craig Lim, got half of the money back for a camera purchase thanks to the group's guidance.

He sent $310 to what looked like a reliable person from their Facebook profile but became more sceptical as time went on.

The seller delayed sending the product for a month, with excuses like the post office being shut due to a public holiday, and later, her daughter being in hospital.

Lim was intimidated by the prospect of engaging with officials and instead went to the Scammer Check group for advice.

They told him to tell the scammer he would file a police report if she didn't return the funds, which she promptly did.

"Filing a report was definitely an idea that came across my mind, but I felt it was a very serious risk to take," he said.

"But next time I definitely would file a police report immediately after I'd been scammed."

CERT NZ acting manager of incident response Jordan Hesping said under-reporting of scams and fraud was a problem for officials.

"We are aware that there is some very consistent under-reporting of these, that's usually due to people not knowing to report, or being too embarrassed to do so."

The overall number of cyber incidents reported to CERT NZ has decreased back to an average number in the last quarter after a significant spike at the end of last year, but the number of scam and fraud reports has remained steady at about 550 over a three-month period.

Hesping said social media scammers, who are both offshore and in the country, are constantly getting savvier.

"They'll use emotional levers, like fear and urgency, they'll refer to current events, which often gets a lot of engagement."

Senior Sergeant Roy Appley agreed and said users don't help themselves by avoiding reporting incidents.

"We really rely on individuals reporting things to police specifically."

Appley warned online shoppers to be cautious and verify who they're buying from, and said above all else, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.