Scams are intended to manipulate or trick people into giving away their personal details, financial details, or money. A scam becomes fraud when the individual responsible for the scam gets and uses someone’s personal, financial details or money under false pretences, for their own gain. Fraud is a criminal offence.
Common types of scams
Scams and fraud can affect anyone at any time so being aware of what to look for and knowing what to do is important to protect yourself and your family. There are lots of different types of scams. Some of the most common ones we see are:
Phishing is a type of email scam, where the sender pretends to be a trustworthy organisation – like a bank, government agency or shipping company – to try to get you to give them personal information, like the login details for your internet banking.
Social media scams
Social media scams happen when someone tries to get money from you through an interaction on social media. They might pretend to be someone you know, and they'll ask you directly for money. For example, they’ll say that they need money to help them get home as they’re stuck somewhere with no access to funds, or that they need to pay for unexpected medical costs. Alternatively, they might be someone you're talking to about buying or selling something on a social media marketplace.
Invoice scams affect both individuals and businesses. Scammers will send fake invoices requesting payment for goods or services that you didn't ask for or receive. They often say that the due date for payment has passed, or that your credit rating will be affected if they’re not paid.
While scam calls are not quite as common as they used to be, they do still happen so it's good to be aware of how they work. Scammers will call you at home pretending to be from a well-known company, like:
- a tech company like Microsoft, or
- a mobile phone provider, like One NZ.
They’ll ask you to give them remote access to your PC or device, claiming they need to repair an issue, or install a software update or an app on it. Their goal is to try to gain access to the private information you hold on your device, like your financial information.
Money and investment scams
This type of scam is common online. Scammers will attempt to get you to part with money or valuable information under the false assumption that you’ll receive financial or personal gain in return. These scams can include 'get rich quick' schemes like:
- the Nigerian prince scam
- ponzi schemes
- unexpected prizes, and
- fake auctions.
In romance scams, scammers will try to take advantage of someone looking for a relationship online. Scammers will use dating sites and apps or social media to build a relationship with you. Once they’ve gained your trust, the scammer will start to ask you for money, gifts or personal details that can be used to commit fraud. They often use fake profiles to make it harder to track them down.
Text message scams
Text message scams (sometimes called 'smishing scams' or SMS scams) are messages sent out by scammers who are looking to get access to your personal information, financial details, phone, or your money.
A money mule is someone who transfers illegally acquired money on behalf of someone else. They help launder the proceeds derived from online scams and fraud by allowing their personal bank account to receive money before the money mule transfers the money.
If you are receiving money into your account from people, you have not met and don’t know and sending the money on - you are a money mule and you could be arrested and prosecuted for Money Laundering.
Where to report
Different organisations cover specific areas of content and have a role to play in protecting people from online scams, spam and fraud.
- Where to report spam, scams and fraud (PDF 135KB)