Fool me once?

5 new scams to be aware of

Nearly everyone knows not to trust the Nigerian prince who wants to reward you for helping them out with their banking situation – or the email from your bank that asks you to input personal information.

However, scammers are changing too. Armed with new technologies and methods for deception their new scams are fooling even those who consider themselves savvy to deceitful behaviour.

Here are five scams to look out for.

1.)  “Mum, Dad? I need some help.”

Yes, it may help you cut corners when you can’t think of the right words to say in a formal email. However, artificial intelligence also provides opportunities for those who wish to do harm.

In one example, a couple in Houston received a phone call from someone sounding exactly like their son, asking for money to bail him out of a sticky situation.

The scammer appeared to have used voice-mimicking software backed by a little research into their son’s background and online habits to pull off this scam, which saw the couple lose thousands. This scam is especially convincing if your child doesn’t live in the same city or country as you do.

While not entirely novel – it’s essentially an old classic known as the Grandparent Scam – it is the use of AI that has brought this one renewed success for nefarious scammers.


2.)  “Closing down for good! Help us clear stock!”

One to prove that old adage ‘if it looks too good to be true, it probably is’, this social media scam involves a Facebook or Instagram advertisement for a store that is shutting up shop and wants to sell off its wares for cheap.

It sounds and looks great – but when you fill your cart and head to check out, you are either unwittingly signing up for a subscription service, or just throwing your money into the ether.

To avoid this one, remember that extremely cheap products are probably not products at all – and if you’re still unsure, check the website for any red flags, such as an unusual domain name. Googling the store name along with ‘scam’ and checking the comments below the post may also help alert you to the illegitimacy of the business.

3.)  Tickets to your favourite band? Yes please!

When there is a big band or show in town, scammers often come out in force, re-selling  digital tickets to sold-out shows then withdrawing these as soon as they appear to have been transferred to the buyer.

This happened recently to fans of country music singer Luke Combs, when a Dunedin-based seller bought a handful of tickets to the show and then resold these to dozens of eager fans. They disappeared from the Marketplace platform once the deal was done.

Generally, anyone on-selling concert tickets probably shouldn’t be trusted, especially if they are unable to place physical tickets in your hand in exchange for your money.

4.)  A place to lay your head?

With the growing housing crisis in New Zealand, some particularly mean-hearted scammers have recently surfaced offering rental properties to those in need.

Hopeful tenants searching for somewhere to live will often comment on Marketplace posts advertising rental properties, which places them in public view and shows these scammers that they are on the lookout for somewhere to live. The scammer will then approach them with the promise of a great rental in their area.

However, the scammers will be “overseas and unable to meet” but will send keys for the home in exchange for a bond payment. The new tenant then shows up to the home (which is generally occupied) with a key that doesn’t work, and their bond gone for good.

5.)  You have an unpaid fee.

This scam can come from several seemingly official agencies and involves a text message or email claiming that you have a fee or toll to pay, with a link for payment.

One common example comes from a scammer claiming to be Waka Kotahi – NZTA saying that you have neglected to pay your vehicle registration, or that you need to pay a road toll. This link takes you to an official looking site where you can pay the toll or fee using your credit card.

If you have recently been on a road trip or your registration is due, this can be a very convincing scam. And of course, once your credit card details are entered, the scammer can help themselves.

If you have any doubts about an approach or an offer it pays to dig deeper. First, check Google to see if there have been reports of a particular scam. Perhaps also check out Netsafe’s ‘Little Black Book of Scams’ too.

And if it’s out of the blue, or too good to be true, always think twice before sharing information or spending money.

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