New Zealanders are being warned of a raft of scams and frauds exploiting the spread of coronavirus.

Bronwyn Groot cropped

Bronwyn Groot, CFFC’s Fraud Education Manager, says scammers overseas are preying on people’s concern about the virus and targetting them in a variety of ways. While reports of coronavirus scams in New Zealand were few so far, Groot expected them to increase. She alerted people to be wary of messages like the following:

  • Phishing emails or texts pretending to offer information updates or access to testing centres, requesting recipients to enter personal information or click on links. The links install malicious software, enabling scammers to find passwords, access email accounts and download personal information such as bank account details.
  • Offers of a ‘coronavirus map’ app to track the pandemic but which instead downloads malicious software into your device.
  • Cold calls with offers of investments in industries experiencing heightened demand due to the virus, such as pharmaceuticals, or in ‘safe havens’ such as gold.
  • Phone calls from scammers pretending to be health officials asking for your personal information, or saying they have test results but need your credit card details to process a payment.

“People have enough to worry about without scammers taking advantage of this crisis,” says Groot. “Fraud networks are sophisticated and their techniques are more likely to succeed when people are distracted or stressed.”

She advised people to use the same response as for any scam attempt. “Stop and think, is this for real? There are red flags to watch out for.”

Most phishing email attempts can be avoided by following these steps:

  1. Always check the email address to make sure the sender is who they say they are. Hover your mouse over the email address to check whether the address that pops up is the same as the one presented in the sender bar.
  2. Never open any attachments unless you trust the sender.
  3. Never click any links unless you trust the sender. Again, hover your mouse over the link to check whether it looks odd.
  4. If you're not sure, it's best to delete the email.

Report suspicious emails to the government cybersecurity agency: cert.govt.nz

Groot also has the following advice:

  • Don’t click links in texts that you’re unsure of.

  • Cold calls with investment offers are illegal in New Zealand. Hang up and report the number and business name to the Financial Markets Authority: fma.govt.nz

  • Health officials will not ask for passwords or expect payment for tests. If you receive a request like this in any form, delete it or hang up.

  • If you’re suspicious of any caller, hang up and call the official number of the organisation they say they represent to check if the call was genuine.
  • Stay up to date with the NZ government's latest news on Covid-19 at covid19.govt.nz

“Unfortunately fraudsters will never let a good crisis go to waste,” says Groot. “Where there is heightened public awareness about an issue, the scams will follow. We need to stay vigilant to avoid having money or our identities stolen.”

Bronwyn Groot, CFFC’s Fraud Education Manager talking on Te Karere about COVID scams

Bronwyn Groot, CFFC’s Fraud Education Manager talking on Te Karere about COVID scams