There has been a huge increase in scam attacks in Wairarapa over recent years. PHOTO/FILE

EMMA BROWN

Emma.brown@age.co.nz

Scammers are getting craftier and more Wairarapa people are becoming targets to their schemes.

Anyone can get caught out, said one Masterton woman who recently found herself on the end of a convincing scam call.

“I’m not stupid, but it happened to me.”

Luckily, the woman, who wished to remain unnamed, avoided being scammed $4000 thanks to quick thinking.

After having problems with her phone and internet for a while, the woman got a landline call from someone claiming to be from Spark.

The caller said to her “you are being scammed and our job is to help you”.

“They talked continuously about scammers, so it was hard to think you are being scammed.”

“Every time I said this doesn’t feel right, they had an excuse or put me onto someone else.”

When she said she needed to check with the police and her bank, they said they would put her onto their high security team because the police “wouldn’t be able to help” and someone at the bank could be “in on it”.

After giving instructions, the caller got remote access to see the woman’s computer screen.

They asked her to log into her bank account herself – although the password was hidden, they could see everything else on her screen.

They said they would put $4200 into her account.

Somehow, they managed to change the numbers on the screen to correspond with entering the amount.

They then asked her to take $4000 out of her account and into a post office account so they could track the money, $200 would be left for her, they said.

She started to think “nobody would give you free money”.

They transferred the call through to her mobile phone so she could get instructions as she went into town to carry out the transfer.

Instead of following their instructions, the woman kept the scammers on the line and took her computer into the police station.

She went up to the front desk and showed police staff the computer and said to the caller, “I am at the police station, is this a scam?”.

She said the phone call immediately cut off and the false bank totals on her computer screen reverted back to the real amount in her account.

After, she went straight to the bank and they immediately froze all her accounts and stopped internet banking.

Her next stop was Technology Solutions who cleared her computer and helped her with security.

In hindsight, the woman said she could see “the red flags”.

“In the moment they have really good psychology”,

She said when she told people about the scam, she received one of two reactions.

They either whisper that something similar happened to them, or say, that was obvious and how did you fall for it, but every single person said they knew someone who had been scammed.

Police community Sergeant Ian Osland said New Zealanders were generally polite, didn’t say no, and held conversations with scammers longer than they should.

He said it was not just the elderly who were being scammed; many people were getting caught off guard.

Common approaches included threats of debt collections from government agencies, Vodaphone, Spark, or IRD, or that there was a computer fault.

He said it was sad because people had lost their family home, thousands of dollars, or their belongings because they had fallen for scams.

There was a spike in scams locally in July, but things seem to have tapered off, he said.

Generally, scammers are not just looking to get access to accounts.

“Sometimes they are just looking to gain information,” Osland said.

“A fake identity is just as tradeable.”

He said to trust your gut instinct, get a second opinion, and to contact the bank immediately if you have been scammed.

Huge increase in scam attacks

Each week Wairarapa business Technology Solutions see a number of people who have been scammed, according to operations manager Stephen Polley.

They work with individuals, as well as Wairarapa businesses, large and small, and understand the impact of the scams locally.

“There has been a huge increase in attacks in the last few years,” Polley said.

“Harvesting credentials is the most common at the moment.”

So were phishing scams, spear phishing, and ransomware attacks.

He said although Wairarapa was a small place, businesses were specifically being targeted by spear phishing scams.

Backing up systems was very important to do because if there was a ransomware attack, they could only restore systems to what they were before the attack.

He said passwords were the last line of defence.

“Try to have a different password as much as you can and decent passwords.”

If unsure about anything, Polley sticks by the motto: “if in doubt, biff it out”.

For more information on NZ based support and scam reporting options:

  • www.police.govt.nz/advice/cybercrime-and-internet/cybercrime
  • report.netsafe.org.nz/hc/en-au/requests/new
  • www.cert.govt.nz/individuals/report-an-issue/