New Zealanders were scammed out of $10.1 million during 2017, with the largest single loss amounting to $480,000.
With online scams and fraud the trigger, the average loss stands at $10,771 per individual across the country.
Yet industry observers believe the reported figure only accounts for a small percentage of total losses, with most Kiwis feeling too embarrassed to report scams.
“The first step is to stop thinking of scam victims as greedy or foolish,” Netsafe CEO Martin Cocker said.
“We need to correct that misconception, get more creative with prevention education, and improve coordination between the agencies and organisations that can disrupt scam and fraud activity.”
According to Cocker, fraudsters have evolved from traditional scam models that use cheap communications technology to reach large volumes of people in order to find the small percentage of vulnerable users.
Instead, Cocker said Netsafe now sees scammers taking the time to set victims up, often by leveraging the huge volumes of personal data now floating about online.
“Scammers are taking advantage of technology and digital marketing techniques to create scams that appear authentic,” he explained.
“These scams are multi-faceted, often using several well- executed marketing elements designed to mimic well-known organisations and processes that people trust. The recent scams imitating Air New Zealand and Whittakers are good examples of this.”
For Cocker, the message of ‘if it seems to good to be true, it probably is’ no longer reflects the reality of the online scam and fraud landscape.
“It would be more accurate to say ‘even if it seems like a reasonable deal, it could still be a scam’,” Cocker added.
The scams most commonly reported to Netsafe are tech support related, with scammers making contact about a fake issue with a computer and offer to fix it by requesting remote access to the device.
And with Valentine’s Day fast approaching, Cocker added that Kiwis lost $1.4 million to online romance scams in 2017.