Common online scams

Online Scams That You Should Be Aware Of: 1. Cold calling scams While not technically an online scam, cold-calling scams are still one of the most reported scams we receive. Cold calling scams are run by scammers who contact you on your home phone. They may be trying to sell you a fake product or…

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Online Scams That You Should Be Aware Of:

1. Cold calling scams

While not technically an online scam, cold-calling scams are still one of the most reported scams we receive. Cold calling scams are run by scammers who contact you on your home phone. They may be trying to sell you a fake product or service, or pretending to be from a legitimate organisation or a government agency. These scammers are trying to get payment or personal details from you and have various tactics to do this. Scammers may claim that you have a refund or payment due to you (e.g. tax refunds from IRD), you have an invoice or bill you need to pay, or that there is a problem with your visa or employment (e.g. your visa has expired).

To find out more about how cold-calling scams work, what to do if you’ve been contacted and the information you need to protect yourself, explore our page on cold-call scams

2. Tech support scams

We receive thousands of reports from across New Zealand of people being cold-called by scammers offering to help with a supposedly slow or infected computer. These scammers use the names of familiar brands such as Microsoft, Spark, Vodafone and Chorus so that people are more likely to let their guard down. These scammers will often attempt to get ‘remote access’ to your device so they can access your computer or network from another location.

To find out more about the scammers’ tactics, how remote access works and what to do if you’ve given a scammer remote access, check out more information on tech support scams.

3. Email phishing scams

Phishing is when a scammer contacts a large number of people to try and get personal information, such as bank account numbers and passwords, so they can use it to impersonate or defraud people. Phishing scams can seem like they’re targeted at you, but in reality, the same scam is being sent to hundreds, if not thousands of people at the same time – only some of these people need to fall for it to make it profitable.

Phishing scammers will often claim to be from a legitimate organisation, or to have some kind of ‘deal’ to be claimed. For example, a scammer may send out an email telling people they’ve won a lottery, and to claim the winnings they need to provide some details. Other phishing scams use scare tactics, where the scammers pretend to be lawyers or employees of the government and threaten legal action if you don’t give them information or money.

To learn more about how phishing scams work, the different types out there and what you can do to protect yourself, see more on email phishing scams.

4. Fake invoice scams

A fake invoice scams is when someone requests that a business pays fake invoices for a product or service that was not requested, or received. The scammer will send an invoice for goods or services you haven’t requested, or for a fake service such as a trade directory. This could be a printed invoice that looks legitimate, or even an email that looks as if it’s come from a legitimate business insisting that you’ve ordered the goods or services.

Learn more about fake invoice scams and the tactics you can use to avoid fake invoice scams.

5. Romance scams

A romance scam is when a scammer pretends to be in a relationship with someone online in order to scam them out of money. These relationships are developed over email, social media, dating websites and other websites and apps. Usually, these scammers are pretending to be someone they’re not, using photos and identities of people they’ve found online.

Read more about how to identify a romance scam, tactics you can use to uncover them and what to do if a friend or family member has fallen victim.

6. Receiving unsolicited goods

We often get reports of people receiving unsolicited goods, goods they haven’t ordered, that they are then demanded to pay for. This scam works by acquiring personal details from a person, such as their name, email and mailing address, so they can send goods. There are a variety of ways they may have gotten these details For example, when someone has entered them on a website under the impression that the details are needed to create an account, or view prices of products., only to find the product is sent with permission and payment demanded. These scammers can be intimidating, aggressive and even threaten legal action.

Find out more about how unsolicited goods scams work and what to do if you’ve been targeted.

7. Unwanted subscriptions and trials

We often receive reports about people being signed up to paid subscriptions without their knowledge. Sometimes, they may have signed up to a free trial, but are unable to cancel their subscription once the payments kick in. Every scenario is different but at times these tactics could be called a scam, and at other times companies are just not providing information clearly enough up front.

To find out more about the checks you can do before signing up to a trial offer and what to do next if you have signed up, see more information on unwanted subscriptions and trials.

8. Investment scams

Investment scams are when scammers approach investors with promises of very high returns with little risk to initial capital. These scammers make contact via email, unexpected phone calls or even send enticing share offers sent via post from overseas. Suspect financial schemes can include initial public offers in high-growth companies, options, gold or foreign exchange trading services, betting systems or new specialist investment areas such as carbon credits.

Learn more about how to spot an investment scam and how to protect yourself.

9. Webcam blackmail and sextortion

Webcam blackmail and sextortion has evolved as a new way to blackmail people online. It occurs when people are lured into engaging in sexual activities on a video-call with someone they met online. This footage is recorded by the scammer and used to blackmail the victim for ransom money.

The impact of sextortion can range from mild embarrassment and a sense of humiliation, to extreme emotional harm. This a serious global issue and blackmailers can be located anywhere around the world. These blackmailers can be individuals working alone, but there are also highly organised criminal groups profiting from sextortion.

Read more about sextortion and blackmail, and what to do if you are being targeted.

10. Government grant scams

Government grant scams are when scammers call people at random claiming to be from the New Zealand government. They’ll say they’re from a department such as the “New Zealand Government Grant Department” or claim to be calling on behalf of a government figure, or political party and may give a fake employee ID number. Scammer’s often claim that the target has been chosen to receive a grant as a reward for example for being good citizens, for having no criminal convictions or for voting for a certain political party. They’ll then ask for personal details in order to process the grant payment, or for an “administration fee”.

Learn more about government grant scams and what to do if you’ve been contacted.

11. Event ticket scams

Event ticket scams happen when tickets to an event are purchased from an individual (for example on social media) or through a third-party ticket resale website. The buyer then finds out they have been charged hidden fees, the tickets aren’t legitimate or they don’t receive the tickets.

To learn more about the risks of ticket resales and buying through social media, explore our page on event ticket scams.


Report a scam

If you have been scammed, or think you are about to be scammed, we can help.

We can’t open investigations or track scammers, but we can offer support and advice for people who have lost money in a scam, or think they are about to. This includes letting you know the next steps you can take and giving you advice about how to stay safe in future.

Reporting a scam also helps us keep track of the evolving tactics scammers are using so we can provide the best advice to fellow New Zealanders.

 You can report a scam to 

Our helpline is open from 8am – 8pm weekdays and 9am – 5pm on weekends.


Report a scam


Be alert and stay safe online. Keep up to date on the latest scams so you can protect yourself and your loved ones from falling victim.


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