SecurityBrief New Zealand - Technology news for CISOs & cybersecurity decision-makers
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3 in 5 New Zealanders report spike in attempted scams

More than a third (35%) of New Zealanders encounter scams on a weekly basis, according to research commissioned by Avast, a global specialist in digital security and privacy.

The new research reveals the extent of the scamdemic currently facing New Zealanders, with 3 in 5 (59%) experiencing a spike in attempted scams in the last 12 months.

Historically, email has been the main means by which scammers target their victims, however that risk has now spread to multiple communications channels, with the research showing scams are reaching New Zealanders mainly via email (85%), text message (60%), phone calls (60%), social media (39%) and messaging services such as WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger (38%).

While Avast's research reveals that most New Zealanders (89%) believe they can identify a scam, with 3 in 4 (68%) confident they wouldn't fall for one, CERT NZ tells a different story, with New Zealanders already reporting a significant $3.7 million in financial losses to scams in the first quarter (Jan-Mar) of 2022.

Stephen Kho, cyber security expert at Avast says, “We are in the midst of a scamdemic, and there is a clear disconnect between New Zealanders' perceived confidence in ability to identify a scam and the increasing amount of money being lost to scams every year.

"In reality, this is being further fuelled by our own fear of embarrassment, with over half (54%) of New Zealanders admitting they would feel embarrassed if they fell for a scam despite the prevalence and sophistication of some of these scams, as scammers get sharper with their tools and scams become increasingly more targeted to individuals situations.

The research showed that 9 in 10 (91%) respondents agreed that online scams are becoming much more sophisticated, and 44% feel scams are increasingly becoming more personal and targeted. Many (46%) admit that they would be more likely to fall for a scam that addresses them personally by name.

Kho says, “The best tool we have for combatting this scamdemic is to make a unified effort to speak up about our experiences to help educate others on what to look out for, as scammers become craftier and target us in new ways every day. We need to destigmatise the experience of being scammed."

With expertise in digital security and privacy, Avast has created the Scamdemic Centre to help educate digital citizens around scams and trigger important conversations and knowledge sharing with family and friends.

“The vast majority of New Zealanders (85%) agree that there needs to be more education around how to avoid falling for a scam, and Avast's Scamdemic Centre is aimed at playing a role in that while encouraging New Zealanders to share their experiences to further educate the wider digital community and help tackle this ever-growing issue,” explains Kho.

The three main reasons New Zealanders believe scams are becoming increasingly difficult to spot are advanced technology being readily available to scammers (79%), the many ways scammers can gain access to their victims personal information (i.e. text, email, social media) (75%), and the belief that people share too much information online, making them easier targets in the eyes of cyber criminals (71%).

“New Zealanders recognise that people are getting complacent with their online security (51%), but with free digital security products like Avast Antivirus, this is easily rectified. Avast truly believes in prevention, as it is difficult to recover financial losses after being deceived into handing them over to bad actors,” Kho continues.

Kho offers the folowing tips to help you spot a scam:

  • The senders name is vague, and the email address is long or convoluted
  • The senders phone number is international or an unknown local phone number
  • The email or message is attention-grabbing or alarmist
  • The call you have received is from an unknown number with a robo speaker
  • The email or message urges immediate action of some kind
  • The email, message or call cites some pretence for seeking your personal information, including asking you to log in or confirm your details on a website
  • The email or message requests payment or a transfer of funds
  • The email or message urges you to click hyperlinked text or a link without clarifying where you are clicking
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