Editorial: Suspicion seems the best policy

By Andrew Austin

The lengths that some people will go to scam money out of others these days is just unbelievable.

The latest scam, featured on our front page today, is just a little too brazen for my liking.

A Tutira woman has been contacted online and asked to pay a fine of $250 for allegedly downloading copyright material.

Deb Scott said it began when she checked her emails and noticed one she did not recognise. She tried to open the pdf file contained in the email, but it would not do so. A short time later an official-looking New Zealand Police email, complete with logo from the police website, arrived.

Mrs Scott thinks the two emails are linked in some way. She said the official-looking email informed her that she had been detected downloading copyrighted music or films and she needed to pay a $250 fine within 48 hours or be taken to court. The email then went into details of how she needed to pay through an online voucher system called U-Kash.

Eastern Region Police Crime Prevention Officer Paul Miller said he had heard of scams using police logos before, but never the actual New Zealand police logo.

It just shows you the length some criminals will go to. The sooner the police shut down operations like this the better.

Police have warned people to be careful when it comes to opening strange emails, because it may be a scam. This is not a good situation, because most of us are getting to the point where we are suspicious of a lot of things that may be quite legitimate.

A few years ago the phone scammers began in New Zealand and now most of us have heard their stories many times. You know the one - when someone over a crackly-internet phone line tells you they are phoning from the Microsoft helpdesk and your computer has a virus and they need to adjust your settings. If you do what they tell you to do, you will find in no time at all they have got access to your computer.

Now most of us think we would not fall for that sort of trick, but it is surprising how many people are caught. Hanging up is the easiest way of dealing with them, but some people I know like to have a bit of fun with them. I heard of a case where the caller on the line told a person there was a problem with Windows on her computer. She replied that she had just washed the windows near the computer. The person on the line tried to explain what they meant, but eventually hung up in frustration.

It is unfortunate we always have to be on our guard these days, but it is better to be safe than sorry.

A cautious approach could save you a lot of money.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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