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How to spot an Internet scam

(and what you can do about it)

Internet scams are evolving. Gone are the days of long-lost princes in foreign lands promising unimaginable fortunes in exchange for your credit card information - today’s scams are smart, sophisticated and scarily believable. According to figures from Netsafe,  Kiwis lost about $19 million to scammers in the 2020 financial year!

The good news is that there are many things you can do to protect yourself from scammers - all it takes is a bit of mindfulness. Read on to discover some of the most common Internet scams and the best ways to keep yourself safe from the bad guys. 

1. Tech support scams

In a tech support scam, the scammer calls you pretending to be a technician from a well-known company like Microsoft, Vodafone or Chorus. The scammer claims that there’s an issue with your device (e.g. a virus, slow Internet connection or security flaw) and asks you to enable remote access so they can resolve the problem.  

Of course, in reality, there’s nothing actually wrong with your device - it’s all just a ruse to get you to grant the scammer remote access, which allows them to control your device from an offsite location. A scammer with remote access might try to sell you useless software, or install malicious apps on your device that can record your banking information and personal data. 

The solution

  • Hang up: If you receive an unexpected phone call from someone who says there’s a problem with your computer, simply hang up. No matter what the caller says, don’t install anything or disclose any personal information.
  • Call back: If there’s a possibility that it’s a real phone call from a legitimate organisation, hang up and call the company on their official helpline. 

2. Email phishing scams

Phishing is a type of email scam whereby criminals try to trick you into giving away your banking details, passwords and other personal information. The emails can look very authentic and often appear to have been sent from a reputable source such as a bank, government agency, social media platform or other trusted online service. 

Phishing emails typically contain a malicious link which, when clicked on, directs you to a website where you’re prompted to verify your password, update your contact details or enter your personal information. As you might have guessed, when you enter this information, it’s sent directly into the scammer’s hands. Around 1.5 million phishing websites are created every month. 

The solution

  • Know how to spot a phishing scam: Spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, demands to act quickly and emails that don’t address you by name are common signs of a phishing scam.
  • Think twice before clicking: Hover over a link with your mouse before clicking to check that the address leads to a legitimate website. Don’t open attachments that you weren’t expecting to receive. 
  • Verify with the sender: If you’re uncertain, look up the sender’s phone number and give them a call to verify. Do not contact the sender on the phone numbers, websites or email addresses included in the email. 

3. Dating scams

In a dating scam, the scammer typically creates fake dating profiles using photos they’ve found on the Internet and strikes up a conversation with people who are looking for romantic partners online. 

Over time, the scammer works on building up a sense of trust and intimacy to make the target feel as though a real relationship is developing. After an emotional bond has been established, the scammer will find a way to ask for money, often to supposedly pay for medical expenses, plane tickets or a business venture. On average, dating scam victims in New Zealand lose more than $18,000, according to Netsafe. 

The solution

  • Know how to spot a dating scam: Be wary of new romantic interests who profess their love quickly, talk excessively about their financial problems or ask you for money. Similarly, you should be cautious of people who keep coming up with excuses to avoid meeting in person or having video calls. 
  • Don’t send money: Never send money, credit card details or banking information to someone you don’t know or haven’t met in person.
  • Reverse image search: Check if your new romantic interest is using legitimate photos by doing a reverse image search. To do so, download a copy of their photo and upload it to Google Images, which will reveal a list of all the websites where the picture is used. 

4. Fake invoice scams

A fake invoice scam is exactly what it sounds like: a financial scam designed to trick you into paying an invoice for products or services that you didn’t order. Fake invoices are usually distributed via email, but they can also be printed and sent to your physical letterbox. 

The fake invoices used in these scams can look very convincing and are often sent to office administrators who may not notice one fake invoice amongst the dozens of legitimate invoices that are processed every day. While fake invoice scams tend to target businesses, home users can also be affected, so it’s important to be wary of any invoices that you receive.

The solution

  • Double-check invoices: It’s easy to lose track of purchases, especially when you’re dealing with a large project that might involve multiple suppliers (e.g. house renovations). Look at your invoices carefully before paying and, if you share finances with someone, don’t just assume that your other half made a purchase without your knowledge.
  • Verify payment changes: If a business emails you to inform you that their usual bank account details have changed, give them a call to confirm that the updated payment information is legitimate. 

Staying one step ahead of the scammers

Here at Pulse Energy, we take the security of our customers very seriously. We will never ask you for your personal information, passwords or bank accounts, nor will we ever ask you to install software without verification. 

If you believe that you have been targeted, please contact us immediately.

Pulse Energy is New Zealand’s leading provider of low-cost electricity. Give us a call today on 0800 785 733 to find out how much you could save on your power bill by switching to Pulse Energy. 

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