Police advice: hang up on scammers

By Roger Moroney

9 comments

The words of advice from police and consumer advocates when it comes to dealing with scammers, whether they involve one-off calls or persistence, are brief and simple: "Hang up".
Scammers who target their "customers" via phone or computer have effectively settled in for the long haul, because the occasions they do strike paydirt show there is a market out there.
They will remain in action while phones and computers remain in action, and tracing and closing them down is as close to a lost cause as it gets.
However, as a Ministry of Consumer Affairs spokesperson noted on their website - if someone online or on the end of the phone requests any personal details online or over the phone do not deliver them.
"Who would request my personal details via email?
"Nobody - anybody who does is a crook, or an incompetent marketer - either way, ignore them."
There is another sure-fire giveaway that all is not well when it comes to calls or emails about having won something: "If it seems too good to be true, it probably is."
The business of scamming (and it has become a fulltime business for a section of the criminal fraternity) has led to the creation of scam-spotting sites like NumberCop, Netsafe and Scamwatch.
They are dedicated to keeping people safe in a new age of online approaches which in some cases are very convincing.
The advice is straight down the line - like only trusting websites you can verify to be legitimate.
The scammers are clever and savvy and have the skills to create an authentic looking website which is simply a clever fake.
Common tricks include: Using web addresses that are similar to the real ones, the use of false security symbols, and even providing links to legitimate pages to create the illusion that all is secure and well.
It can be worth doing a 'whois' search on the website address to see if the company contact details are published and how long the address has been registered.
Scammers often pay to register a new website name for only one year in the knowledge they will eventually be shut down or get bad reviews by customers.
In terms of transactions which involve the use of a credit card or account number the ministry's scam-watchers have some clear advice:
¦If possible, despite some overseas deals being cheaper, try to deal only with people or businesses in New Zealand as this makes it easier to report problems to the authorities and ensure you have some consumer rights.
¦Make sure you have adequate contact details (and not just a PO box number) before sending any money.
¦Spend time before you buy checking out the retailer - Google the website and/or company name to see if others have reported problems on web forums.
On the land and mobile phone line front be wary of responding to unsolicited calls, texts and faxes.
They may direct you to disguised 0900 numbers or similar and it may cost you to reply.
The Ministry makes it clear: "Don't give out your number to just anyone.

Even if a caller claims to be from a reputable organisation, they may not be. Always ask why a caller needs your number and what it will be used for. If in doubt - hang up. Don't give your number".
And as far as "playing along" and having a bit of a giggle knowing you are talking to a scammer ... don't.
"Many scams are money-making schemes for organised crime - these are not the sort of people you want to joke around with."
So how do they operate?
First, the "you have a computer virus" call.
¦The Set-Up: Someone rings you out of the blue. They tell you that your computer has a virus.
¦The Hook: They give you directions on where to look on your computer. Apparently there is a virus. You download a piece of software and sign up to a service that is meant to keep your machine safe.
¦The sting: There is no virus, you've lost your money and your computer may have been hacked.
¦The Antidote: If someone calls you out of the blue to say your computer has a virus, just hang up. If you have downloaded any software onto your computer, as a result of this scam, unplug it from the internet immediately, and if in doubt take your computer to a technician to be "cleaned".
Then there is the banking scam.
¦The Set-Up: You get an email, asking you to update your account details.
¦The hook: It looks genuine so you type in your PIN number and password.
¦The sting: You have just given scammers access to your money and your identity, and they'll gleefully take both.
¦The Antidote: Never enter your personal details into a website unless you are absolutely sure it is genuine and check websites carefully. If they are similar to a genuine company's web address but not quite right then be very wary. Never visit your bank's website by clicking on a link - type in the website address yourself. Do not give out account details over the phone unless you made the call and you trust that the number you called is genuine. Ask for a name and number so you can call them back, and check that number against a number you know to be genuine. Do not reply to, click on any links, or open any files in spam emails. Don't call any numbers in spam emails because email is basically very insecure.
And the "you've won some money in a big overseas lottery".
¦The Set-Up: You're contacted out of the blue.
¦The Hook: You just need to send in an administration fee and the prize is yours.
¦The Antidote: Never send any money following an unexpected prize or lottery win, especially via a money wiring service such as Western Union. Always be cautious and wary about giving out your personal details, bank details, mobile phone numbers or email address. Don't open junk emails. Just delete them. Do not even click to unsubscribe as malicious links can launch spyware onto your computer.
Ignore unsolicited texts or missed calls from unknown sources and do not call any numbers given in emails to check if a lottery or competition is genuine. Scammers often set up 0900 or overseas, premium rate phone numbers that are expensive to call.
Hang up - ignore - be wary.
As far as the lengths scammers will go to to lift someone's details or cash from their accounts the list is diverse, and concerning.
The scam alert sites list the following - computer virus scams, online trading scams, banking and phishing scams, computer hacking, online dating scams, employment scams, investment scams, upfront payment scams, lottery and competition scams, mobile phone scams, flatmate scams, holiday and travel scams, charity scams, health and medical scams, small business scams, door-to-door scams, social media scams ... these are some for starters.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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