At least four New Zealanders are losing money to online scams every day as the number of Kiwis being targeted has risen drastically this year, says Netsafe.
According to Netsafe data, 2407 online scam attempts were reported to the online safety organisation as of March 31, an average of 802.3 scams per month.
Of this, 394 people reported to have lost money (an average of 131.3 people per month or just over four New Zealanders being successfully conned every day).
If the average continues, both the total number of reported scam attempts, and those falling victim will smash last year's totals. Netsafe data shows 8146 scam attempts were reported in 2017 (an average of 678.8 per month), while 888 people reported losing money (an average of 74 per month).
Last year, New Zealanders were scammed out of $10.1 million, but that number has already been surpassed this year, with Kiwis being defrauded of $12.5m (as of March 31). This year to March the total is already $8.1m over the total losses reported for 2013.
Netsafe chief executive Martin Cocker said that there were a couple of reasons for the rise in data.
"I think that in reality there is actually a growth in the number of scam operations around the world, so there's definitely increased opportunities for people to be exposed to scams online," he said.
"Those scams are becoming more sophisticated and more effectively targeted, so there's an increased opportunity for people to be drawn into them and to lose money."
But Cocker also attributed the rise in data to an increased interest in reporting incidents but cautioned that despite this increase, it was still only a fraction of the real likely totals of scams in New Zealand as not everyone who is scammed will report it.
"There's also just an increased interest in reporting. The reality is that we only get a small number of the total number of New Zealanders who are scammed, actually reporting to Netsafe.
"We've been trying to encourage people to report for years but it can be embarrassing to report that you've fallen for a scam and there is often little that can be done afterwards.
"Mostly, people are reporting for the public good. The information that they provide is used often to disrupt the scams," he said.
Scammers are partly becoming more sophisticated because of the information that we put out in the cyber world, making personal details about individuals easier to access than ever before.
"They're [scammers] tending to use more information, to target more and more effective scams.
"There are dossiers of information about people available to cyber criminals, which means they can produce scams that are targeted literally to individuals or small groups of people.
"It's out there for two reasons; one, because we put it there, and secondly because somebody else stole it and put it there," Cocker said.
In many cases, this information is used by scammers to make themselves appear more legitimate in the hope of lowering their victims' guard.
"The problem is that one of the key things we use to decide whether somebody's trying to scam us - which is the amount of information they know about us - is not as good an indicator as it was in the past," Cocker said.
"There's been a go-to description of scams which is that if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. The problem with that phrase is that it makes it sound as though the reason you fell for a scam is because you couldn't see some sort of obvious flag that it was too good to be true. We see scams every day that are too good to be true, they … look like legitimate opportunities."
Data provided by Netsafe revealed that the PC doctor/tech support scam was the most popular ruse used by scammers last year.
In 2017, Netsafe received 2665 reported incidents of the PC doctor/tech support scam, 1967 more than the second-most reported scam – goods paid for but never received.
"This PC doctor model has been a popular scammer model, they are quite effective unfortunately," Cocker said.
"It's an effective scam for a variety of reasons. One, that it's personal and a person rings; two, that it leverages people's lower levels of technical knowledge; and then it often appears relatively safe for quite a long period into the scam, you don't necessarily hand somebody over money early. The whole thing comes together to a package that's quite a convincing scam."
Cocker says that the important thing to remember with this particular scam is that nobody from a legitimate business will ring you out of the blue and ask to remotely access your computer.
"There is no business that does this legitimately. There's nobody who rings you and tells you they're going to remotely access your computer unless you've paid for that service in advance and signed up for that service," he said.
Despite the rise in people falling victim to online scams, Cocker believed that overall people were becoming more aware of scams.
"We're all improving our awareness of scams in reality, but the question is whether we're getting smarter about scams faster than scammers are getting smarter about how they deliver them."
Netsafe's tips to protect you from scams:
• Think twice when you're unexpectedly contacted – even if the person says they're from a legitimate organisation like the bank or your internet provider.
• Don't respond to phone calls or contact about your computer asking for remote access to fix it. No one is going to contact you out of the blue about a problem with your computer.
• Legitimate organisations will never ask you for your passwords. Use good, strong passwords on online accounts – and don't tell anyone what they are.
• Keep your personal information secure. Think carefully before entering your details online, or giving them to someone.
• If you're using an online trading or booking website or app, don't communicate or pay outside of the website or app.
• If someone offers you money or another offer, but you have to make a payment up front, ignore it. This is a common tactic of scammers.
• Don't give money to people you have entered into a relationship or friendship with online.
• Use a good antivirus and keep your software up to date. This will help to protect your device from someone trying to access it.
• Be wary of unusual payment requests. Scammers try to use payments that can't be traced such as pre-loaded debit cards, gift cards that can be used online, iTunes cards or money transfer systems.
• If you're not sure if something is legitimate or genuine you can contact us for free advice seven days a week on 0508 NETSAFE or visit www.netsafe.org.nz