Retirement Life
13 September 2023

Protect yourself from scams


We spend a significant proportion of our time online nowadays. While there’s no question technology has made life easier in many ways, it’s also increased the risks of falling victim to a scam -whether over the phone, by email, on a website, or on social media. Older people who are less familiar or comfortable with digital life can be particularly vulnerable.


As scammers’ tricks grow ever more sophisticated, making them difficult for even savvy tech users to detect, the consequences are also becoming more severe. A case in point is the recent scam that saw some Kiwis lose tens of thousands of dollars after investing in a fake Citibank-branded term deposit.


The sheer number of scams now doing the rounds has led to greater awareness, as well as an uptick in public education campaigns. We’ve rounded up some of the key tips and tricks here to help you recognise the signs of a potential con and how to safeguard your information.


1. Stay informed

One of the first steps to protect yourself from scams is to educate yourself about the common tactics scammers use. Keep up with the latest scams by reading news articles and staying informed about the types of fraud that are currently prevalent. Remember that scammers adapt, so what was common yesterday may not be the same today.


There are a number of organisations that try to keep on top of scams currently doing the rounds, as well as providing useful tools and resources, including:


Cert NZ

The Department of Internal Affairs, and

Consumer Protection’s ScamWatch NZ Facebook page

2. Guard Your Personal Information

Your personal information is like gold to scammers. Be cautious when sharing any personal details like your IRD number, bank account information, or passwords, whether online or over the phone – particularly if the initial contact was unsolicited and from an unknown source. Legitimate organisations will never ask you for sensitive information via email or phone.


3. Verify the source

When receiving unsolicited emails or phone calls, always verify the source before taking any action. Scammers often impersonate government organisations, banks, charities, or reputable companies. Don't trust caller ID information, as it can be spoofed. Instead, hang up or delete the email and contact the organisation directly using a phone number you find independently (e.g., from a trusted website or official correspondence).


Calculate what you could draw in retirement.

If someone claims to be a loved one messaging from a new number and asks for money, or something doesn’t feel right, try getting in touch with them on another platform like Facebook, or calling them on their old number. If you really want to get proactive, you could set up a code word with your close family members, which you can use to verify someone is who they’re claiming to be.


4. Use strong passwords

Creating strong, unique passwords for your online accounts is crucial. Avoid using easily guessable information like birthdays or common phrases. Instead, use a combination of upper and lower-case letters, numbers, and special characters. Consider using a password manager to keep track of your passwords securely.


5. Secure your devices

Ensure that your computer, smartphone, and tablet are protected with up-to-date security software. Regularly install updates and use a reliable antivirus programme. Be particularly cautious when downloading files or clicking on links from unknown sources. If you think a link is suspicious, hover your cursor over it to see whether it’s a credible website. Netsafe has a useful tool which lets you check the legitimacy of a website or link – check out its Spot a SCAM checker here.


6. Be sceptical of offers that sound too good to be true

Scammers often use enticing offers or promises of quick and easy money to lure victims. If an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is. Be especially wary of lottery or prize offers, investment opportunities, and emails from unknown individuals promising riches.


7. Protect your social media

Be cautious about the personal information you share on social media. Scammers may use your publicly available information to impersonate you or answer security questions on your accounts. Adjust your privacy settings to limit who can see your personal details.


8. Hang up or log off

If something doesn't feel right during a phone call or while browsing online, trust your instincts. Hang up the phone or close the website. Scammers often use high-pressure tactics to make you act without thinking. Take your time to evaluate the situation and sound out a trusted friend or family member if you’re dubious.


What to do if you encounter a scam (or even just suspect you have):

Report it to the appropriate authorities:

  • If you think a crime has occurred in relation to a scam, call the Police on 105 or report it online via the 105 website.
  • Advise the Department of Internal Affairs about any instances of text, fax or email scams at Report Spam.
  • For online incidents and other scams like fraudulent phone calls, report it to Netsafe.
  • Advise the organisation that is being impersonated, if relevant. For instance, many recent scams link to fake NZ Post websites (that look scarily authentic) or purport to be from the IRD.
  • Contact Your Bank: Notify your bank immediately if you suspect you've fallen victim to a scam.
  • Reset Passwords: Reset passwords and monitor your accounts for unusual activity.

Project your retirement income.

By staying informed, guarding your personal information, and being cautious when dealing with unsolicited communication, you can significantly reduce your risk of falling victim to scams. Remember, scammers prey on trust and vulnerability, so stay vigilant and listen to your instincts.


Photo of Vanessa Glennie
Written by:

Vanessa Glennie

Vanessa is Head of Communications at Lifetime Retirement Income. She’s an experienced investment writer, having spent more than a decade writing about financial markets in the global fund management industry.

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