A BNZ customer who was inadvertently turned into an electronics mule by a relationship scheme was so reluctant to accept that he had been defrauded that he took his business to another bank, said the BNZ chief financial officer.
The bank is running its Scam Savvy week starting Monday.
Financial crime chief Ashley Kai Fong said that while fraudulent activity declined as countries around the world entered the Covid-19 blockade, it increased again as restrictions eased.
BNZ customers were most commonly affected by tech support scams, in which people called claiming to be trying to “fix” problems, but in reality getting access to their computers. The prevalence of invoice scams, in which people received a reliable invoice, but with changed payment details, had increased in the last year.
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The number of online scams and impersonation in banks has increased by 75% year on year, he said. This involved people who contacted bank or telecommunications customers pretending to be from their provider in an attempt to obtain their passwords or credit card information.
A CERT NZ report found a 229 percent increase in scams in the second quarter of this year compared to the same period last year, and a 4 percent increase in all cyber scams and fraud in the first half of the year. New Zealanders lost $ 7.8 million in total in the first six months of 2020 to online scammers.
Kai Fong said one of the most difficult scams he faced last year was related to a customer who was receiving cell phones and laptops that had been paid for with a stolen credit card.
He received them on behalf of a person he believed to be his girlfriend, who he met online. He then sent them internationally.
The scammer told him that the money from the sale of the goods would pay for her to fly to New Zealand to stay with him.
“This male client was passionate and, involuntarily, an electronics mule. Under the guise of a serious relationship, a foreign scammer was using our client to take illegally purchased goods and take them to customers around the world.
“We detected the illegal activity and tried to convince the victim that she was involved in a sophisticated romance scheme in which she was being used as an intermediary for stolen goods. But he didn’t care about that, he was too deep in the rabbit hole. “
The client ended his banking relationship with BNZ and went to the ground. Despite repeated consultations by BNZ, it is not known whether the client continues to deal with the scammer.
The man did not lose any money as a result of the coup. Kai Fong said the fraud was discovered through commercial transactions made through BNZ systems – there were a large number of electronic items being purchased and sent to his address, paid for by his “partner” with stolen credit card numbers. The bank had contacted the police, citing the customer as a victim of the fraud.
Kai Fong said it is common for clients involved in romance or relationship schemes to resist discovering that they have been cheated. He said it was one of the most devastating things that can happen to a person. “They think they are in a relationship with their loved one.
“Unfortunately, we see cases where a customer refuses assistance, even when the facts are presented.
“Relationship scams are really disturbing because the victims feel they are in a real and authentic relationship. Then, they discover it is a fraud and their world collapses around them – it is devastating.
“These scams are usually carried out over months, sometimes years, with the scammer establishing what appears to be a very real and profound emotional connection with his victims before the coup itself began.
“When we encounter these scams, we often ask the victim to involve his family and friends to ensure that they have a support network around them as we deploy fraud. Even if you get the money back, the emotional damage can be serious. Victims feel cheated and vulnerable and this has very real repercussions for the victim in his other relationships. “
He said people should be on the lookout for situations where they are asked to do something a little unusual or unexpected.
But complex scams in particular could attract people, so that while anyone looking outside would see that something was not right, it was not so easy for the victim to notice.