About Internet scams, spam and fraud

Internet fraud, spam and scams can affect anyone at any time. Being aware of what to look for and knowing what to do is important to protect yourself and your family.

Common scams sent by spam email

Get rich quick schemes

These offer opportunities to earn thousands of dollars a week, but your earnings may be dependent on selling the scheme to others.

Nigerian fee scam

This long-running scam offers you a percentage of millions of dollars in exchange for an up-front fee and letting the sender use your bank account to transfer the funds from where they are currently held. The Nigerian letter has many variations, and despite its name can come from anywhere in the world. For information on similar scams, visit the Consumer website.

Prize notifications

These tell you that you have won a prize in a lottery you haven't entered. But you have to pay money to the operators before they will release the money. For information on similar cases, see the Consumer Protection website.

Internet auction scams

In these scams offenders use stolen credit card numbers to buy high price items or sell bulk items then take the money and run. In many cases the fraudsters are based overseas. Visit the Consumer NZ website to see a report on online auctions.


Phishing attacks use 'spoof' emails and fraudulent websites designed to fool recipients into divulging personal financial data such as credit card numbers, social security numbers, bank and other account usernames and passwords. By hijacking the trusted brands of well-known banks, online retailers and credit card companies, phishers are able to convince up to five percent of recipients to respond to them. For more information see the Anti-Phishing Working Group website.

How to protect yourself against scam email

  • Do not reply. A reply only serves to confirm that your email address is active and ready for further 'offers'.
  • Notify the spammer's Internet Service Provider (ISP). If spamming is against the ISP’s policy for email account holders, the ISP may penalise the sender.
  • Notify your own ISP or IT support. They may be able to advise you whether filters can be placed on your email programme to stop such emails.
  • Do not forward hoax emails. Take a common sense approach when you receive strangely worded or sensationalist emails in your inbox – if you think the email is a hoax it probably is. Do your friends a favour and don't pass them on.
  • Unless the email is from a known and trusted source, do not open attachments or click on links, as these can infect your computer with malicious programs.
  • Think twice about emails from trusted sources but are ‘Forwards’ of joke or chain letter types, these can also be dangerous.

More information

Visit the Department of Internal Affairs anti-spam web page.

For information on scams running in New Zealand visit the Consumer Protection website.

For information on protecting yourself from online trading scams, visit the TradeMe Trust & Safety Blog.

Report your concerns about online incidents including spam messages, online traders, objectionable material, privacy breaches, scams and frauds through Netsafe's The Orb website.