Online scams are becoming more realistic and targeted every year, says Netsafe chief executive Martin Cocker.

Netsafe receives an average of 1,500 complaints from New Zealanders every month, and Cocker said there was clear evidence that scam artists were moving on from the typographical errors and creative use of typeface size and colour that previously typified online scams.

"Those scams still exist, but you now have scams that look 100 per cent like legitimate marketing material," he said.

The scams even tend to be seasonal, with scam artists increasing their activities during the warmer months when businesses were more likely to organise giveaways or other promotions.


The best way that users could remain safe was by not veering away from trusted websites, even if a promotion looked legitimate, Cocker said.

"If a company is running an actual promotion, it will likely be on its website."

Scammers were particularly interested in emulating trusted New Zealand brands because these were more likely to pull in unsuspecting consumers, he said.

Whittaker's is the latest brand to become the subject of such a ruse, with scam artists using a faux promotion to glean private information from consumers eager to get their hands on some chocolate.

The fully branded fake ad promised to send a collection of six chocolate bars for taste-testing to consumers who followed the survey link.

Whittaker's marketing manager Holly Whittaker said the scam had been conducted through email. The company was first notified about the scam several weeks ago.

"We responded immediately to reassure them the email was not from Whittaker's and not to engage further. We also advised the receiver we are doing everything we can to stop the source."

The company had taken legal steps but still did not have any information on the identity or location of the scam artists.

"We have notified our legal advisory who are taking corrective action," Whittaker said.

"We have also notified our media agency, and all internal staff to advise consumers not engage. And of course [we've also posted] the notice on facebook to our chocolate lovers."


Caution Chocolate Lovers, we have had a few of you contact us about a scam going around that invites people to become...

Posted by Whittaker's Chocolate Lovers on Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Whittaker said around 20 consumers contacted Whittaker's directly asking about the scam, but there were likely many more who received the email.

"We are doing everything we can to stop it."