Fraudsters conned Kiwis out of almost $23 million as their tactics get more convincing and waves of scams hit our shores.

One person lost a staggering $5 million to an inheritance scam while the average loss was $9801 per victim.

But experts believe the numbers are just the tip of the iceberg as victims are often too embarrassed to report their losses or which agency to turn to.

Online safety organisation Netsafe released the scam loss figures to mark the start of Fraud Awareness Week which aims to inform Kiwis about how dangerous and sophisticated scams have become.


The most common types of scams in New Zealand

The most common scam reported to Netsafe was the infamous sextortion scam where a fraudster pretends to have intimate recordings of a person in order to blackmail them into sending money.

Often these emails are very convincing as they contain the victim's own current or previous password which the scammer got from a previous data breach.

Meanwhile the category of scam most reported to Netsafe was products and services fraud with 1641 separate incidents and a collective $6.1 million lost between July 1, 2018 to June 20, 2019.

Scammers regularly use well-known brands, like Countdown, New World or Harvey Norman in texts and emails where they tell the victim they've won a prize - often a supermarket voucher or mobile phone - or that they'll win something if they fill in a survey.

The online survey asks for personal details and sometimes credit card details to pay for the shipping of the prize.

But the highest average losses were to prize and grant fraud - where people are led to believe they've come into a large sum of money - where 202 victims lost $27,691 each. This totalled $5.59 million in losses.

And the 169 victims of investment fraud - where a scammer tricks someone into investing in a fake opportunity - lost on average $27,770 totalling $4.6 million.


Waves of scams hit Aotearoa

Netsafe chief executive Martin Cocker said scammers trick people by finding their personal data online and using digital marketing techniques to target them.

These scams are designed to mimic well-known organisations and processes that people trust, Cocker said.

Scammers are also often based overseas which makes them difficult to police and means victims are unlikely to get their money back.

And unfortunately the number of reported scams and the financial losses only represented a small percentage of the problem as many people didn't know where to report what happened.

Scam victims are also often embarrassed or ashamed to tell others what had happened, he said.

"As waves of scams continue to hit Aotearoa, it's important organisations partner together to educate people on how to protect themselves and that co-ordinated national efforts to disrupt scams happen, and we're working towards both of these outcomes.

"The simple message of 'If it seems too good to be true, it probably is' no longer reflects the reality of the online scam and fraud landscape.

"It would be more accurate to say: 'Even if it seems like a reasonable deal, stop and think is this real or a scam'."

Scam losses across New Zealand

Aucklanders suffered the highest financial loss with more than $9.5 million lost across the region, followed by Wellington then Canterbury.

Auckland - $9,547,118.88
Wellington - $2,675,211.30
Canterbury - $1,812,522.62
Bay of Plenty - $423,777.39
Waikato - $393,462.81
Nelson - $301,543.17
Northland - $266,715.68
Manawatu - Wanganui $230,367.50
Tasman - $144,066.20
Otago - $112,295.35
Taranaki - $97,268.10
Hawke's Bay - $71,698.13
Gisborne - $33,879.17
Southland - $9198.45
Marlborough - $8691.06
West Coast - $1206.18

Fraud Awareness Week is led by the government agency Consumer Protection and aims to get New Zealanders talking about scams and to help prevent more people falling victim.

If you think you've been the victim of a scam contact Netsafe on 0508 638 723 or visit the Netsafe website.