Over the last 2 weeks Geeks on Wheels has noticed a substantial increase in the number of scams directly affecting New Zealanders. In a usual month, Geeks on Wheels would generally average around 200 customers contacting us per month concerned about scamming activities, however recently we have been contacted by a significant number of non Geeks on Wheels customers who have been directly impacted and genuinely experienced horrific financial losses. In two notable instances this week, one individual was scammed for $20,000 while another almost lost over $70,000 in one transaction!
In both of these instances, the hackers called pretending to be from a major trusted NZ company. They managed to convince both of these people that they had been hacked by sending them to trusted websites that popped up with warnings. This was likely due to an addon or malicious software installed on their computer before the scammer called.
The next step was that the scammer claimed that they really needed the victims help to catch the hackers, preying on the good nature of the people they had called.
During this time they loaded multiple different remote access softwares onto the victims computers and managed to capture their bank details, set them up for international payments and transfer all the money from the victims other accounts into one account of theirs to make it appear that they had received extra funds to transfer.
They then asked them to go to the bank and transfer that money to an overseas account so that they could trace the transaction and catch the hackers,
they even managed to convince the victims to “play it cool” at the banks so that the banks would not suspect anything otherwise they would not be able to catch them. They also had the victims believing they should not check their bank accounts for a couple of days because they had been hacked and accessing their account online was high risk.
Geeks on Wheels tackles scammers, viruses and malware daily and sees first hand the harm that can come of not being properly protected. It is imperative ALL New Zealanders keep themselves safe from scammers. Geeks on Wheels offers their best tips in order to keep scammers at bay below.
So, what is a phishing scam?
We hear the term phishing used in the media regularly but what does it actually mean to New Zealanders?
A phishing scam is a fraudulent attempt by a third party to steal your personal information, usually made via email or telephone. The scammer will attempt to convince the target that they are a representative of a trusted brand that the customer has used before. While this is usually a bank or internet/ phone service provider they can also pretend to be a smaller service.
Usually, there are two main ways that a phishing scammer will attempt to contact a target. Firstly, a scammer may try to send an email. This email message will look as though it has been sent by a trusted contact and will often have imitation branding of the bank or internet service provider you trust, telling you that there is an issue with your account and that you must log in by clicking the link in the email. This will redirect you to a fake website that looks like your real bank or internet providers site and get you to put in your login details, which are immediately captured by the scammer giving them access to your accounts.
How do you know which emails are scams?
There are usually some obvious giveaways with phishing emails to look out for. Following these steps will help you identify whether the email is legitimate or not.
1. Check the senders email address:
False email addresses can look trustworthy by emulating a trusted senders email address. A good check to do if you are unsure about an email is to look at the sender and see if the address is spelled correctly, for instance – firstname.lastname@example.org is not the same as email@example.com although they look very similar. The same goes for checking the ending of the email address. Eg. firstname.lastname@example.org is not the same email as email@example.com Checking this will be a key indicator on whether or not the email address is false.
2. Check for spelling mistakes:
Often scam emails will be written by third-parties outside of New Zealand, where English is not a first language. If you see obvious spelling mistakes in the emails, make sure to be cautious.
3. Call the real sender:
If you suspect the email is fraudulent do not call the number in the email, instead go to the real website of the business and look for a contact number. By calling the sender you will be able to verify whether or not the email was sent by them.
4. Your bank or ISP will NEVER email you to reset your password without you having requested it first. Make sure to contact them by phone to confirm the legitimacy of any emails you receive relating to resetting your password.
Having an up to date email client and antivirus software is also key as these two programs will work together to often filter fraudulent and phishing emails before they get to your inbox, so you don’t run the risk of falling for them.
Phone based scams
With phone-based scams there are also a number of key things to look out for to alert you to fraudulent activity. Scammers have the technology to make a phone call look like it is local and are often very persuasive. It is important to know what to look for and the following list is an excellent starting point.
1. Just because the phone number has your local area code doesn’t mean it is local:
Scammers have the technology to falsify and replicate their caller ID to match local businesses or individuals, question any phone call with intent to access your computer or any type of account. You can check the validity of any call by hanging up, going to the Bank or Service providers website and calling their 0800 number to ask if the call was legitimate, this will absolutely let you know whether the call you received was a scam or not.
2. Never allow a caller access to your computer unless you can verify that you are speaking to a legitimate business:
Scammers will often attempt to install programs such as Teamviewer or Anydesk. While these programs are not viruses or scams, they are designed to allow a trusted user access to your computer and their login and password keys should not be given to anyone other than a trusted user. Even though you may not keep sensitive data like passwords on your computer , if you have used it to log in to any of your accounts, there are often passwords stored on your computer without you knowing. Scammers know this and will try to access these passwords in order to get in to your accounts.
3. A company will NEVER call you or email you to change your password without you initiating the password reset first. If you receive an unsolicited password reset email or phone call, this may be a sign of a scam.
4. Ask the caller to verify details only the legitimate company would have for you:
A good way to safeguard yourself in a conversation that may not be legitimate is to request that the business calling you provides you with something that only the real business could know. An example of this would be asking a caller posing as your bank for your customer number, another example might be asking someone calling you on behalf of Microsoft for your date of birth. If the caller can not supply these details or you are unsure about their response hang up and visit the legitimate businesses website and call the number listed on their website to verify whether or not the call you received was legitimate.
5. Do not transfer money:
A financial institution will NEVER ask you to transfer money overseas or domestically for the purposes of tracking an investigation. Even if you receive funds in your account it is imperative that you do not transfer your funds to another account at the request of a caller. If you have been told to do this by a caller you can either call the Banks legitimate number directly and ask whether this is an instruction they have given you or physically speak with staff in a local bank branch.
If you think you have a scammer contacting you online or on the phone
Geeks on Wheels offer a FREE first call service for anyone in this situation, so either hang up if you feel unsafe or call 08004AGEEK (0800424335) from another line for professional assistance and guidance on how to deal with the situation.
If you have been or think you have been scammed, there are a series of next steps to follow including changing your passwords, scanning your computer for compromises or malicious software, and contacting the providers of the services the scammer pretended to represent.
Geeks on Wheels can assist throughout this process and ensure that your computer is safe to use and is up to date with the appropriate antivirus software.
Check out the article and audio from New Zealand Herald and Newstalk ZB