A sophisticated online scam is using the good name of a major footwear brand to target New Zealand shoppers.
The individuals behind the scam have created a faux retail site that prominently features the branding of major Japanese sports brand Mizuno.
On the surface, the website looks as though it is the legitimate local arm of Mizuno.
The site is hosted at Mizunonz.co.nz and features slick imagery as well as a full range of Mizuno products all priced in New Zealand dollars.
Whereas some scams are easy to spot, the creators in this instance have taken careful steps to ensure that everything looks legitimate.
Everything from the design of the site to the imagery of the products have the appearance of being legitimate.
Even the pricing is set at a figure which is just alluring enough not to trigger suspicion.
When you head to the checkout section on the site, you are even billed a delivery fee – all just adding to the appearance of authenticity.
The first hint that all is not what it seems occurs when the user creates a new account.
The confirmation email that arrives in the user's inbox comes from a Gmail account rather than anything associated with Mizuno.
Attempts to email the account simply result in a bounce-back, suggesting the email could not be sent.
The Herald contacted an official Mizuno retailer in Singapore to find out if the site was in any way affiliated with the brand.
"We have checked that the site is a phishing website and it is not affiliated with Mizuno," the support team said.
New Zealand's domain name commission, which provides information on all registered .nz websites, shows that the site was first registered on May 23, 2020, in France.
The registrant is an individual named Sara Wolf, who appears to be located in Germany.
Attempts to contact Wolf have proven unsuccessful.
Online safety organization Cert NZ warns that these types of scams are becoming more common.
"At Cert NZ, we have seen a rise in websites operating from overseas that make it look like they are a legitimate New Zealand business," the organisation says.
"They might use a .co.nz URL, a New Zealand phone number, an image of a New Zealand flag, or state that they are New Zealand based, when in fact, they're not.
"This leads people to believe that they are buying a product from a NZ-registered online shopping site because it ends in .co.nz, rather than a foreign scam site."
Big brand shoes are among the most common product used to run this type of scam – and consumers have been warned to exercise caution before hitting the purchase button.
Cert NZ says when people make a purchase, they might receive imitation shoes, an entirely different product or, in some cases, nothing at all.
Cert NZ advises consumers to check the NZ Domain Name Commission and the New Zealand companies register before they enter any of their personal details.
Cert also warns that consumers shouldn't trust websites that don't list a physical address, don't display terms of trade (including return policies) and have significantly lower-priced goods.
What makes the Mizuno scam so effective is that it ticks all of these boxes. The website features all the information you'd expect to see on a shoe retail site and prices of the items aren't so low that they look ridiculous.
What this indicates is that scammers are evolving and ironing out the familiar kinks that indicate a scam.
These nefarious efforts are further backed by advances in website technology that now makes it easier to create a website to a professional standard.
With the scammers most often based abroad, New Zealanders also have less recourse to legal support to get any of their money back.
"If an online shopping site is not registered in New Zealand and something goes wrong with your order, you do not have the same legal recourse to set it right. New Zealand authorities will have little scope to investigate and there's often no criminal footprint to follow." Cert NZ says.
This ultimately means the best approach is to rely on trusted websites that have a record of delivering the products in the local market.