Scambusters: It’s a scam-tastic world – celebrity forgeries, romance scams, AI deceit, bank frauds abound | #DatingScams | #LoveScams | #RomanceScans

Technology and old-fashioned greed have combined to create a dizzying array of new scams. Almost $200 million was lost to scams in the first 10 months of 2023, according to Government documents citing 11 financial institutions. The real amount could be much higher, and scams now appear in possibly more formats than ever before.

  • Artificial intelligence (AI) has been used in ads stealing images of broadcasters including Mike Hosking and Wendy Petrie. An image of Hosking at the ZB studio was juxtaposed with one of him apparently sporting injuries. Pirated 1News video interspersed with file footage of a Ferrari and money featured in a fake Petrie ad on Instagram.
  • Less technologically advanced door-to-door scammers use high-pressure tactics to convince you to buy a product or sign up for a service you don’t want or need. The Commission for Financial Capability (CFFC) said aggressive pitches were often for charitable donations, investment opportunities or home services.
  • Several people have reported receiving unsolicited scam phone calls from Australian numbers recently. Some of the calls had a recorded message purporting to be from Visa, noticing “unusual debits or transactions” on a credit card account.
  • Phone scams have also been reported by ANZ, which recently said it had recorded a surge in customers receiving calls from scammers pretending to be from the bank.
  • Romance scams led to Westpac warning of con artists stealing images from genuine social media and dating app profiles to build “likeable” characters.
  • Private investigator Phil Jones said the scam victims coming to him for help most often were people who’d sent large amounts of money abroad, especially to elaborate fake investments. The CFFC said investment scams were getting more sophisticated.
  • Chief executives are being impersonated in scams encouraging people to fall for what appear to be urgent requests.
  • Old-fashioned skimmer scams are still a reality. Last August, skimmers gained access to an Auckland woman’s bank PIN number and withdrew as much as they could from a cash machine.
  • Identity theft remains a widespread scam variety. The CFFC said identity thieves could buy things using stolen account details, obtain passports, receive government benefits, apply for loans, and more.
  • Scammers impersonating police have tried enticing victims with a financial lure. The text scam landed on the radar of the real police.
  • Purchase of Merchandise scams happen on online marketplaces, where fraudsters can create accounts selling goods that turn out to be of poor quality or nonexistent.
  • Brazen in-person scams using mules have been reported overseas. The FBI warned people about scammers instructing victims, including many senior citizens, to liquidate assets into cash or buy gold, silver, or other precious metals to protect their funds.
  • Some scammers prey on people’s poor health and offer fake miracle cures, weight loss programmes or fake online pharmacies. “In all cases, they often appear as sponsored posts on social media or website pop-ups,” the CFFC said.
  • The CFFC said emergency frauds usually target loving grandparents, taking advantage of their emotions to rob them of their money. These tricks normally start with a phone call from somebody pretending to be a loved one in distress or some other emergency.
  • The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) said it was crucial to educate the public about scams including investment scams, fake services and online shopping rorts.
  • “The complexity and sophistication of the scams we are seeing today requires a coordinated response, both across government and with industry,” Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister Andrew Bayly told the Herald last month.
  • Legitimate companies and authorities generally encourage people to hang up if a phone scam is suspected, and take dodgy ads seen online with a grain of salt. Sometimes, common sense is your best protection.
  • Scambusters is an independent editorial series brought to you with the support of the Banking Association.

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National Cyber Security