Shocked middle aged mature woman feeling stressed reading unbelievable online news, surprised senior old lady looking at laptop amazed by unexpected stuck computer problem sit on sofa at home

Has it happened to you?                    words: Judy McAuliffe

We’ve all heard the saying, “If it looks too good to be true, it probably is,” but, how often do we really take notice?  While we’ve been in Lockdown, scammers have been very busy and it’s incredibly easy to be sucked in, so get your defences ready. Scammers are targeting New Zealand, and don’t think “It won’t happen to me!” Mid Canterbury is being taken for thousands of dollars every week. Spirit Magazine talked to four unsuspecting locals who were recently caught by scammers.

Money from the International Monetary Fund to get you through Covid19, free TV’s and phones, makeup trials, track and trace packages, supposed Microsoft technicians and dating scams are the most common, bringing scammers big dollars via phone, email and social media.  

Retiree Gail was pretty impressed when “Microsoft technicians” called, as quite coincidentally, she did have a problem with her laptop. It sounded legitimate so she gave the person on the other end of the phone remote access to her computer. Big mistake! They actually fixed a minor problem, and she paid them while they were still online. All the time they were watching what she did, and before she knew it money was flying out of her account. When she realised what had happened, she took the computer in to have spyware removed and contacted BNZ, who were very good. The money was all refunded, but she’s still getting those calls and they’re now quite abusive because they can no longer access her accounts, but they keep trying!

Businessman David got a text saying he’d won a new Samsung phone from a large nationwide appliance store. His phone was a bit old and he was quite keen to have the latest technology. He didn’t remember entering a draw, but the company was reputable, and the prize seemed pretty good! He didn’t think a scam would come via a text. Wrong! He clicked the link but hesitated at the $2 payment they asked for. At that point he told a few people and very quickly discovered his close call!

Another retiree, Margaret signed up for a makeup trial on Facebook and was asked to pay $2 postage. The initial product arrived, then a series of different amounts, 48.62, $56.45 – weird amounts – kept appearing to go to Australia, Singapore etc. She contacted ANZ who “were great”, and they repaid all the money, but gave her a stern warning about being gullible.

Samantha received a Facebook Messenger message from a good friend (supposedly) asking how she was. She replied that she was great and returned the question. He replied that he was especially great because of something that had happened recently and would she like to hear about it. This friend is often playing pranks, so Samantha thought it was most likely to be a joke and agreed. The next message was about how he had won $250,000.00 from someone called Agent Michael Williams09and with a picture of him (supposedly) shaking hands with Donald Trump. When the friend asked if she’d like to invest too, Samantha immediately realised it was a scam so didn’t engage again.  Meanwhile, this person (using her friend’s name) kept phoning, and interestingly, her friends name came up as the caller on her smart phone screen. When she didn’t answer any of the phone calls, they stopped.

Surprisingly, the over 65’s and the 30 – 35year-olds are the most likely to be caught by scammers. Men lose the most money, women report more. According to Netsafe, Kiwis lost at least $33 million dollars to scams in 2018, with $1,812,522.62 of that lost in Canterbury.

Scroll through our pages (below) to read Netsafe’s safety tips.

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Judy McAuliffe is a writer, and publisher Essence Mid Canterbury. Her experience in media is extensive and includes approximately 15 years as Creative Director for The Radio Network, writing, and managing the writing of radio advertising, mainly in Invercargill and Greymouth. In the late 1990’s she transferred to Christchurch, moving into an Account Management role with 91ZM. In 2007 she and a business partner set up Essence Mid Canterbury, very quickly adapting her radio-writing skills to print media. Judy became sole owner of Essence Mid Canterbury in June 2014. Judy is a ‘people person’ and has found her niche writing feature stories about the community she lives in and the people who live there. She is also available for freelance writing assignments.