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What can I do to protect myself from being scammed?

Common sense and a healthy dose of scepticism can keep you safe from those who want to rip you off. If an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Being fearful of others can lead older people to isolate in their homes. Fear of being scammed can do the same, or lead people to shun the internet, email and other new ways of communicating and staying in touch. Yes, scammers are out there. But common sense and a healthy amount of scepticism can keep you safe from those who want to rip you off.

There’s lots of help available – check out The Department of Internal Affairs, Consumer NZ and Te Ara Ahunga Ora Retirement Commission's Little Black Book for a start. Boiling all the advice down to one thing, it’s quite simple – if it seems too good to be true, then it probably is.

Some scammers deliberately target older people, either by door knock or phone call. Their stories may target your needs, worries, or desire to help a seemingly worthy cause.

Romance scams in particular are cruel and insidious, playing on someone’s sense of loneliness and their desire for companionship. Having established trust, the scammer will ask for money under some pretence, or for help with banking transactions that may in fact be money laundering.

Scammers grow more sophisticated the more that authorities expose their ruses. The level of sophistication can take in even the most wary, so there is no shame in admitting you have been duped. In fact, reporting scams is the best way to ensure they are closed down, as authorities can issue warnings and take steps to block the offenders.

Awareness is our best defence, and we can all play a part in spreading the message. Raising the subject with friends and family is a good place to start – it’s highly likely people in your circle have been targeted by scammers, if not taken in. Forewarned is forearmed, and sharing these stories helps us all to remain vigilant.

Where to report a scam?

In brief - Consumer NZ's Top Tips

  • Never reply to any email asking you to confirm your bank or credit card details. Legitimate organisations will never ask you to do this. The same applies if you’re asked for this information over the phone.
  • Research the firms you’re dealing with. Use the Companies Register to see if the company exists and who’s behind it.
  • Don’t be swayed by cold-callers promising bargain deals or instant riches if you sign up on the spot. Legitimate companies will give you time to do your research.
  • If you think you’ve been scammed, report it to police. If you’ve handed over your bank details, contact your bank and immediately suspend your account. Fraudulent credit card transactions can sometimes be reversed.
Updated: 11 Jun 2024
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