Reports of scams have increased by 25 per cent in the past month as the country has hunkered into life in lockdown.
Online safety organisation Netsafe says it had expected to receive about 60 reports of scams each day during the lockdown, but the reality had much been higher - at about 76 reports of scams per day over the past four weeks.
Netsafe chief executive Martin Cocker said reports of every type of scam - including those that had previously been on the decline - had increased during the crisis as opportunists sought to cash in from uncertainty and demand and supply caused by Covid-19 pandemic.
The Commission For Financial Capability (CFFC) is warning shoppers to be vigilant as to what sites they are shopping on ahead of the lockdown restrictions loosening on Tuesday.
Online shopping and order fulfilment has been limited to only essential items under the Covid-19 alert level 4 lockdown. Once New Zealand moves into level 3 at midnight on April 27, online shopping will once again open up to permit the order of any item for delivery.
Bronwyn Groot, fraud education manager at the CFFC, said scammers were setting up fake shopping websites and phishing emails set up to steal personal information and credit card details by scammers hoping to take advantage of loosening restrictions.
She warned that these fake websites would take shoppers personal details and credit card numbers but no goods will be sent in return, and funds in the card could be drained.
"Watch out for cloned websites of well-known brands," Groot said.
"The company name might contain an extra letter, or the logo might be slightly different, but otherwise the page looks identical to the genuine website."
Groot advises that shoppers check the websites of well-known brands carefully for slight discrepancies, and that if you are accessing a .co.nz site that you have not visited before, to check that the company is registered at Companies Office.
You can also check the domain name is registered at mxtoolbox.com.
"Be particularly careful shopping through sites of companies based overseas, as once your money leaves New Zealand it's almost impossible to reclaim," she said.
Online shopping scams are among many which have been on the rise since the onset of Covid-19. Netsafe said a lot of "fake websites" were currently being created, advertising Covid-19 supplies and items that are perceived to be harder to source under lockdown.
The remote tech support scam is most common type by volume in New Zealand, but Cocker said the biggest scam Netsafe had seen over the past month was a resurgence in the fake sextortion scam whereby an email is sent saying that a person had been videoed watching pornography and a demand in payment to ensure that the video will not be released. This type of scam was previously on the decline, he said.
"There has definitely been an increase in scams; these are scams that are designed to take opportunity directly of what is going on because a lot of people are at home and using the internet for things they would not have traditionally done."
Cocker advises that shoppers to be extra cautious when using websites outside of New Zealand, and at businesses that are unknown to you.
"We're increasingly using e-commerce because we're physically not able to go to shops and scammers are looking to take advantage of that," Cocker said. "When scammers detect that there is a particular category of item that people are desperately trying to get that is in a short supply that's when they will set up fake shops around it.
"If they are very new websites and you can't find any information about the business that sits behind them then we recommend extreme caution before trading on them."
As more people turn to online shopping in coming weeks there was greater risk that many would fall victim to fake shopping sites, Retail NZ chief executive Greg Harford said.
He urged shoppers to be mindful of where they are shopping and to know that just because a website is registered to a New Zealand domain, it does not mean it is a New Zealand website.
Retail NZ is calling for the Government to allow shops to open under lockdown level 3, Harford said this would also minimise the risk of falling victim to scams online.
"Shopping in-store is a way of making sure you are dealing with a reputable and trusted brand and that you get what you pay for.
"The issue with stores being closed for at least the next couple of weeks is that customers who would normally be wanting to go to a shop to buy something are being forced to doing that transaction online - for some consumers, they won't be comfortable with that," Harford said.
About 9 per cent of all retail spending in New Zealand is conducted online each year. This number is expected to increase significantly from Monday, but Harford said it would still remain a minority of spending that would otherwise happen.