A New Zealander lost $840,000 in a long-running online "romance scam" - where criminals pose as a love interest, and convince a person to send them money.
The scam was the largest single loss reported to Netsafe in the past year, new analysis released to the Herald on Sunday shows. Such "catfish" scams involve fraudsters setting up a fake identity online.
Kiwis reported a combined loss of nearly $19 million from online fraud and scams to the agency, in the year to June 30. The average amount lost was $4777.
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The overall amount lost dropped by almost 19 per cent compared to the previous year, but Netsafe chief executive Martin Cocker said it was difficult to judge the significance of such changes, given only a fraction of fraud was reported.
"Sometimes people are embarrassed to seek help, or they simply don't know where to go for support."
People of all ages fell victim - those aged 18-40 accounted for almost half of the total scam and fraud losses.
Netsafe has released the figures to mark the start of Fraud Awareness Week, and Cocker warned scammers were becoming increasingly sophisticated, meaning the adage "if it seems too good to be true, it probably is" was no longer sufficient protection.
"Scammers are investing the time to find personal data people share online. They are then creating scams that appear authentic and mimic well-known organisations and processes that people trust to lure them in."
Romance frauds can be particularly traumatic, because victims could be vulnerable and dealt a double-blow of financial loss and realising someone they believed to be their partner never existed.
Such relationship and trust fraud was reported to Netsafe 252 times in the year to June 30, accounting for total losses of more than $4.7m.
However, investment fraud accounted for most money lost - 367 reports totalling more than $7m. Such scams can go well beyond an email promising high returns, with fraudsters setting up detailed "company" websites.
Online scams are very hard to police, and money is rarely recovered.
Online scams reported to Netsafe, July 1 2019 - June 30 2020
• Investment fraud, 367 reports, $7m lost
• Romance scams, 252 reports, $4.7m lost
• Products and services fraud, 2509 reports, $3.3m lost
• Prize and grant fraud, 280 reports, $1.1m lost
• Phantom debt collection fraud, 32 reports, $696,000 lost
Netsafe's 10 tips to spot a scam
• Contact that's out of the blue - even if the person claims to be from an organisation like a bank or internet provider
• Getting told there's a problem with your phone, laptop or internet
• Being asked for passwords - legitimate organisations never do this
• Needing to verify your account or details - don't reply or click on links in an email, even if it appears to be from a real organisation
• Trying to get you to move outside of an online booking or trading website like Air BnB - don't pay outside of the usual website or app processes
• Offering money or a prize in exchange for something upfront - scammers might want a "processing fee" to release promised riches
• Being asked for money by friends/partners you've met online
• Unusual ways to pay for something - scammers often use payments not easily traced, like money transfers or pre-loaded debit cards
• Asking for remote access to your device