COMMENT:

The Herald's Cooking the Books personal finance podcast is here to get you the tips you need to weather the financial storm. Hosted by Frances Cook, with a new money expert featured on each episode.

As New Zealand prepares to move to a lower level of lockdown, amidst the celebrations, there's a note of warning: watch out for the scammers who are already circling.

Any crisis tends to attract scammers who think they can make money from fear, and this time is no different.

Advertisement

Listen to the Cooking the Books podcast here

The figures show that internationally this is already a major problem.

London alone had 400 per cent increase in cyber scammers, who are targeting Covid-19, while Google has blocked an extra 18 million coronavirus phishing scams a day, on top of the 240 million already getting blocked before all this.

And as we move to level three next week, the increase in business activity means we're more vulnerable to these criminals.

The scams are as varied as ever. Some claim they've found a vaccine, or have a miracle health business you can invest in. Be particularly wary if they're based overseas, because once you've sent money out of New Zealand it's nearly impossible to get it back.

Besides, cold calls about an investment opportunity are illegal here in New Zealand. So if they're already acting illegally, it's the ultimate red flag. Hang up the phone!

Others claim they're with the government, trying to trace you in case you've had contact with an infected person, and you just need to pay a processing fee.

That's particularly difficult, because the Ministry of Health is contacting people at random times these days. But the red flag there is that they should never want your credit card details, pin numbers, or even much personal information from you.

These scammers work by playing on your fears and trying to get you to act quickly, so that they can steal your information and money.

Advertisement

Bronwyn Groot, fraud education manager at the Commission for Financial Capability, talked about the problem on the latest Cooking the Books podcast.

She said scammers could be charming and persuasive, and nobody should think they were immune to being tricked by them.

Subscribe to Premium

"These scammers are really good at what they do, they've got the gift of the gab.

"Once they get their foot in the door it's really hard to get their foot back out."

A good tactic for checking if a call or email is fake, is to contact the company on its main numbers.

Don't click any links in the emails; it's disturbingly easy for scammers to send you to a website that looks just like the real thing.

Instead ignore the email, or tell the caller you're busy and will talk to them later. Then look up the main website, or call on the main 0800 number, and ask the company if it was really them.

If the caller doesn't want to let you leave, and pressures you to give them information anyway, that's another huge red flag. Any legitimate company wouldn't have a problem with it.

"On any call I would be extremely hesitant on giving out information," Groot said.

"[They shouldn't ask for] your credit card number, your passwords, or your pins."

Listen to the full interview on the Cooking the Books podcast. You can find new episodes on Herald Premium, or subscribe on iHeartRadio, Apple podcasts app, or Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.

If you have a question about this podcast, or question you'd like answered in the next one, come and talk to me about it. I'm on Facebook here, Instagram here and Twitter here.

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