"Scumbag" scammers are targeting vulnerable Kiwis, preying on their fears about the deadly Covid-19 pandemic to gain access to people's computers and bank records.

Bank of New Zealand is warning New Zealanders to stay vigilant as criminals seek to take advantage of uncertainty surrounding the virus.

BNZ head of financial crime Ashley Kai Fong in recent weeks scams had emerged purporting to be the World Health Organisation, an infection map tracker and the more standard tech support, plus Netflix and streaming service password scams.

They were all trying to take advantage of people searching online for coronavirus information or an increase in online activity as more people spent time at home under self-isolation.


"During these uncertain times, people are hungry for information and in a hurry, and are dropping their guard when it comes to staying safe online.

"Scammers are scumbags. They see a large, global event like coronavirus as an opportunity to exploit people. They mimic the organisations we trust and pretend to be services we see as vital during times of crisis so they can steal passwords and install malware on people's devices."

The comments following similar warnings last week from Netsafe urging people to be alert to scams and seek advice for bullying after reports of abuse jumped around the world as self-isolation numbers grew.

Kai Fong said BNZ had seen emails pretending to be the WHO offering coronavirus information that took them to a site that then installed malicious software on their device or tricked people into sharing personal information.

Another campaign targeted people with the offer of an Covid-19 infection map application that tracked the progress of the virus around the world, but when they installed it on their device, it stole passwords and other sensitive information, he said.

"Scammers are also targeting those in isolation with emails saying their Netflix or other streaming service subscription has lapsed. It takes you to a fake site which then steals credit card information and other banking details."

Kai Fong said while scammers might be adept at mimicking brands we know and trust, there were giveaways that helped recognise scams.

"At a time when everyone's indoors and isolated, the best thing Kiwis can do is take a breath, don't rush and remember a few simple steps on how to recognise a scam.


"Don't share your personal information online. If you aren't sure whether something is legit, find another way to contact the organisation to check.

"Scammers know we're more susceptible and prone to making a bad decision when we're in a hurry. If you feel hurried or put under pressure by an email take that as a warning sign that it's probably a scam.

"Many companies are proactively contacting their customers during this uncertain time to tell them what they are doing in response to Covid-19. However, even with the increase in communications from companies, they won't ever contact you asking for personal information. If they do, that's a huge red flag."

Kai Fong urged anyone who through they had lost money to a scam to contact their bank immediately.

"If you think you've been scammed, get in touch with your bank as soon as possible. The quicker you do, the more chance we have of recovering lost funds from these scumbags."

Last week, the country's online safety organisation Netsafe warned people to be vigilant to opportunistic scammers, fake news and possible online abuse as virtual connections become preferable to physical contact thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic.

"Reports from around the world indicate there has been an increase in abuse and harassment online due to Covid-19," Netsafe chief executive Martin Cocker said.

There had been reports of xenophobic abuse and social media pile-ons.

Cocker said anyone who was aware of such conduct should use Netsafe's free service for expert incident advice.

Covid19.govt.nz: The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website