Saturday, December 2, 2023

Warning over text message scams

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A warning has been issued to be aware of a scam that references the NZ Police. Times file photo Wayne Martin

People are urged to beware of two scams circulating in the community that have cost victims their life savings.

The first involves a text message purporting to be from Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency.

A Times staff member received the scam text on May 14.

It came from a +60 country dialling code number, which is used by Malaysia.

The text message said: “NZTA ALERT: Your account has an overdue unpaid toll notice.

“Will expire on May 3, 2023, to avoid high fines, please apply online: https://aetherplane.com. Thank you for managing your payment.

“Please reply to 1 to activate the link to manage your unpaid toll bill. Thank you.

“Timely handling to avoid affecting your travel on toll roads.”

The Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) says the ‘NZTA toll’ phishing scam has been circulating in New Zealand since late 2022.

It purports to be a genuine text message from an organisation such as Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency, NZ Post, Inland Revenue, and various banks.

The message may include gambling and prize scams.

DIA deputy director operations John Michael says the agency wants scammers to know it’s working closely with mobile phone operators, banks, police and cyber security agency CERT NZ to “stop those responsible in their tracks”.

“We’re seeing cases where New Zealanders have lost their entire life savings to this scam, in some cases upwards of $10,000.

“We want to be clear to the scammers that by sending scam SMS messages, you are targeting fellow New Zealanders. This has to stop.

“If you’re involved in sending these scam messages, you’re committing a crime.”

Michael says people who are convicted of sending a scam message face a fine of up to $200,000.

The DIA works closely with mobile network operators and police and is aware of scam technology operating in locations in the North and South Island.

“We are confident in our ability to identify the users of this technology.”

People involved in the scam may be inflicting harm on their friends and family members, Michael says.

“If you’ve been approached about a business opportunity that involves sending large amounts of SMS text messages, are thinking about it, or know someone who has, DIA needs to speak to you.”

The second phone texting scam has seen people receive a message purporting to be from the police.

A spokesperson says: “Police are aware of a new TXT scam campaign that references NZ Police.

“The TXT will try to get you to click on a link that looks similar to the official NZ Police site but isn’t real.

“This is a scam and anyone who receives it should not respond under any circumstances.”

The spokesperson says police will never contact somebody “out of the blue” by text message with any embedded link for any enforcement reason.

“Anyone who receives a similar TXT is asked to report it to Department of Internal Affairs TXT scams.”

Michael asks people with information on the scam to email info@antispam.govt.nz.

Alternatively, phone the free and anonymous Crimestoppers tip-off line on 0800 555 111.

People who believe they’re the victim of a scam can phone police on 105.

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