Online scams and fraud cost Whanganui-Manawatu residents $609,000 last year - but the actual figure is likely to be much higher.

Online safety organisation Netsafe says New Zealanders reported losing $10.1 million to online scams and fraud last year, with the largest single loss reported to Netsafe as $480,000.

Manawatu-Whanganui residents reported the fifth highest loss by region with a total of $609,689.30. Netsafe was unable to provide data for Whanganui only.

Netsafe CEO Martin Cocker says the reported losses throughout New Zealand are the tip of the iceberg and likely represent only a small percentage of actual money lost.

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"In the last week Netsafe has received two reports where people have lost several hundred thousand dollars to scams," Mr Cocker said.

"We do find that some people feel embarrassed about reporting these losses, but it's important to report so we accurately understand the scale of the problem and can evolve our national response and education accordingly."

Scam tactics are becoming more sophisticated as scammers take advantage of technology and digital marketing techniques to create scams that appear more authentic than in the past. Online scams and fraud are difficult to police as many scams are operated outside New Zealand.

"Generally, these criminal enterprises are based off shore so it's very unlikely that targets will be able to recover the money – basically once it's gone, it's gone," Mr Cocker said.

"That's why proactive education is important to mitigate the risk in the first instance. We encourage everyone, no matter how digitally savvy they think they are, to improve their knowledge of scams and to talk to friends or family who might need a bit of extra help."

The scam most commonly reported to Netsafe is the fake PC tech support scam where scammers make contact about a fake issue with a computer and offer to fix it by requesting remote access to the device.

The largest loss reported to Netsafe in 2017 was $480,000 to an investment scam. New Zealanders lost $1.4 million to online romance scams in 2017.

Netsafe's tips to avoid scams
- Think twice if you're unexpectedly contacted about a deal or problem.
- Don't respond to unexpected contact about problems with your computer.
- Legitimate organisations will never ask you for your passwords.
- Think carefully before entering your personal details online or giving them to someone.
- Be wary of unusual payment requests like gift cards, money transfer or iTunes vouchers.
- Be wary of partners recently met online who request money or hint at money problems.
- If you're using a trusted trading or booking website, don't pay outside of it.
- If you're not sure if something is genuine you can contact Netsafe for free advice.

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For advice or to report a scam, call 0508 NETSAFE or visit www.netsafe.org.nz