Staying Scam Smart: Navigating the Digital World Safely

21 December 2023 by Lifetime

Staying Scam Smart: Navigating the Digital World Safely

As our lives become increasingly online, it is more important than ever to be vigilant when it comes to scams. The ability to identify a scam can be one of your most important skill sets when it comes to navigating the digital world – but, as the scammers become more sophisticated, the harder a scam will be to pinpoint.

So, what does a scam look like?

Scams can come in all shapes and sizes, but their aim is to blend into their surroundings well enough to eventually catch you out when your guard is down or in a moment of confusion.


Phishing scams are likely the most common form of scam that you are exposed to. These can be spotted in many places; emails, text messages, and social media, just to name a few. In their Q3 Cyber Security Insights, CERT NZ reported that 11% of incidents resulted in a financial loss and that reports were up 10% from Q2 earlier in the year. More than half of the reported incidents were due to phishing or credential-harvesting incidents[1].

The main objective of a phishing scam is to convince you that the communication is legitimate enough for you to click a link that could ask for your personal information or contain malware.

Key features to look out for when determining whether or not you are looking at a phishing scam are:

  • Typos in the message, subject line, or sender address.
  • Quality of the images (often, these can be more pixelated as they are taken from the web).
  • The sender of the message – if the address doesn’t match the sender name it is most likely a scam.
  • Always ask yourself; do you know the sender? Were you expecting to receive this message? If you do know the sender, is the topic out of character?
  • If in doubt, contact the company/person directly instead of the details on their message.

Even seasoned investors are more likely to be targeted and can get caught up in an investment scam.

Identity Theft

Imagine a thief donning your digital identity like a stolen coat. Identity theft is a nefarious practice where scammers steal your personal information to assume your identity. They will look for personal details to access your accounts such as your date of birth, pet(s) name, or your mother's maiden name as these are answers to common security questions. This can lead to fraudulent activities such as unauthorised purchases and loan applications.

How to safeguard yourself:

  • Regularly monitor your bank statements and credit reports.
  • Use strong, unique passwords for each online account.
  • Enable two-factor authentication whenever possible.
  • Avoid sharing personal information on social media, no matter how trivial the detail may seem.

Investment Scams

The promise of astronomical returns on investments can be alluring, but it often serves as bait for investment scams. Fraudsters exploit this desire for financial growth, enticing victims to invest in nonexistent or fraudulent schemes. Even seasoned investors are more likely to be targeted and can get caught up in an investment scam. Scammers have been known to draw customers to them rather than going to the customer themselves, this could be through a paid advertisement that attracts your attention online.

How to protect your assets:

  • Conduct thorough research before investing.
  • Be sceptical of unsolicited investment opportunities.
  • Consult with your financial adviser before going ahead with your decision.
  • Run the company’s website through to verify if it is legitimate.

Whether combating phishing attempts, the threats of identity theft, or the allure of investment scams, our digital journey demands heightened awareness.

Tax Scams

Beware of unsolicited messages or emails supposedly from Inland Revenue promising you an unexpected refund in exchange for your banking details. This is a classic example of a scam, and the messages can look very convincing too. The trick here is to always double-check the sender name and address – if it’s not directly from Inland Revenue then it’s probably a scam.

Another common tax scam is a phone call from Inland Revenue claiming that you owe money, and if this is not paid, they will report you to the police. In this situation, it is always best to hang up the phone and call back Inland Revenue at the 0800 number to verify that the money is owed.

Always remember, Inland Revenue will never:

  • Call you using aggressive or threatening language.
  • Threaten you with arrest or send the police to your home.
  • Ask for payments via prepaid credit cards or gift cards or cryptocurrency.
  • Ask you to provide your myIR login or password.
  • Ask you to enter personal information into a third party website.

Safeguarding Your Digital World

In the dynamic online sphere, protecting yourself against scams is paramount. Whether combating phishing attempts, the threats of identity theft, or the allure of investment scams, our digital journey demands heightened awareness. Tax-related scams, often disguised as official entities like Inland Revenue, underscore the importance of a proactive and informed approach.

Protection hinges on a strategic blend of recognition and action. Identifying common scam indicators—typos, incongruent sender details, and unusual requests—forms a crucial defence. Whether guarding against identity theft, conducting thorough research before investments, or remaining cautious with tax-related communications, a well-informed approach is pivotal. As we navigate the digital landscape, the ability to discern, question, and validate stands as our strongest defence against evolving online threats. Stay informed, stay vigilant, and empower yourself to securely navigate the intricacies of the digital world.

If you would like further information and tips on how to handle these scams and more, take a look at Netsafe’s The Little Black Book of Scams.



Disclaimer: This article has been prepared for the purpose of providing general information, without taking into consideration any particular person's objectives, financial situation or needs. Any opinions contained in it are held by the author as at the report date and are subject to change without notice.

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