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Kiwis have been hit by a staggering wave of fraud and deception crime, the latest Crime and Victimisation Survey shows.

The survey is compiled for the Ministry of Justice through public surveys to estimate annual crime levels, with the latest report based on data collected between November 2021 and November 2022.

It found the annual number of fraud and deception crimes had risen to 510,000 from 288,000 the previous year, with more than 90% of crimes not reported to police.

One in 10 adults said they had been a victim of fraud or deception, up from one in six in the previous survey. Two in every 100 said they had been victim of “cybercrime”.

People were categorised as having fallen victim to fraud and deception if someone tricked or deceived them, in order to obtain money, goods or a service, or someone used or attempted to use a bank card, credit card, cheque or other document belonging to them without their permission, in order to obtain money or credit, or to buy goods or services.

Cybercrime, by contrast, involved a computer or internet-enabled device belonging to the victim or a member of their household being infected or interfered with, for example by a virus or someone accessing it without their permission.

The “broad category of fraud and cybercrime” overtook burglary in number of offences, the ministry found.

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Fraud and cybercrime was the only broad offence group to experience a significant change in prevalence rates between 2021 and 2022, said Andrew Kibblewhite, chief executive of the Ministry of Justice Tāhū of te Ture.

“The prevalence and incidence data suggests that there has been an increase in both the number of adults experiencing at least one act of fraud and cybercrime and the number of offences experienced by fraud and cybercrime victims,” the survey report said.

Such is the prevalence of fraud, deception and cybercrime that the second most likely crime scene was “over the phone”.

The family home, however, remains the most common crime scene as a result of the combined numbers of family violence and burglary.

Households have been targeted by criminals through a wave of phishing texts disguised to look like they are from banks. They seek to prompt people to click on fake bank links, and hand over their banking login details.

Other phishing scam variations include the fake parcel delivery notification scam, and the unpaid toll road text scam.

Text phishing scams are common.


Text phishing scams are common.

The Crime and Victimisation Survey was published the day the Banking Ombudsman hosts a premier launch screening of Nigel Latta’s You’ve Been Scammed, a four-part TV series that looks at how criminals prey on human weaknesses – love, greed, fear and trust – to scam them out of their hard-earned cash.

Latta said: “We don’t really have any idea of the level of money that’s been lost by people because what happens most of the time is that people feel embarrassed and shamed if they get caught up in a scam.”

The Crime and Victimisation survey’s existence is designed to paint a more accurate picture of crime than is told in police crime statistics as many crimes go unreported.

Cybercrime is one of the least reported crimes, the survey said.

As few as 7.5% of fraud and cybercrime events were reported to police, it said.

Nigel Latta is about to release a four-part series on how crooks scam ordinary people.

Nigel Latta is about to release a four-part series on how crooks scam ordinary people.

It also noted New Zealand European adults experienced a greater increase in fraud and deception offences than other ethnic groups. The biggest increases were experienced by people with personal incomes of $100,000 or more.

When asked why they did not report an offence, people gave different responses depending on the kind of crime they had suffered.

“In some cases, people do not report an incident to the police because they report it to another authority instead,” the report said.

That could include financial regulators like the Financial Markets Authority Te Mana Tātai Hokohoko, or the Commerce Commission Te Komihana Tauhokohoko.

“For example, banks and credit card companies will often take action to mitigate the impact of fraud and cybercrime. Therefore, victims of these crimes were significantly less likely to have reported the offence to the police because their bank or credit card company took care of it (47% of respondents gave this reason) or because they reported it to another authority (20% of respondents gave this reason).”


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