Friday, January 27, 2023

More Than 1 in 4 Kiwis Will Lose $509 this Xmas. Here’s How NOT To!

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It’s Christmas – the season of good cheer, carols, warm nights, cool Prosecco, shopping frenzies and… Christmas scams. The average Kiwi is now losing a staggering $509 in Christmas scams – here’s how to avoid being part of that statistic!

I’d finally found it – the cutest little mobile I’d ever seen, that would be perfect for the little nursery I was starting to put together. 

I’d been having a quick look around online, but everything was either ghastly expensive, or just ghastly. Then suddenly, like Instagram magic, this cute as a button safari mobile turned up in my feed. It had fluffy giraffes, zebras and elephants and I wanted it. Better still, at $65, it was cheaper than any other I’d seen.

Better still, as I clicked through, the site offered free shipping internationally. I just had to be quick, because the mobile was 50% for that day only – tomorrow it would be $130 again.

Right then is when all the alarm bells in my head should have been ringing. Was this too good to be true? Of course it was! It’s been nine months since I forked over $65 and nine months since I’ve heard from The Kawaii Hub – although thankfully for everyone else their site has now been shut down (although I imagine they’ve just popped up trading elsewhere with a similar scam).

If I was feeling cranky about throwing $65 down the drain, I’m far from alone – and as Christmas shopping ramps up, each year more and more Kiwis are caught up in a scam. Plus, as the cost of living soars, this year, it’s expected we’ll hit new highs (or more accurately, lows) as more scammers try to com families trying to nab a bargain.

A new report from Norton revealed that more than a quarter of New Zealanders (28%) had already been the victim of scams during previous holidays seasons, losing on average NZ$509. Eep.

And yip, this year we’re willing to do anything for a bargain. Nearly a quarter of New Zealanders (22%) surveyed say they tend to take more risks when online shopping during the holiday season than other times of the year, like buying from an unknown seller and clicking on online ads.

To make matters worse, if we’re not risking our hard earned cash by buying from dodgy sellers, a huge number of us are posting information online that gives fraudsters everything they need to steal from us. Many of us may not even be aware that these behaviours are risky!

In the same Norton survey, nearly 2 in 5 of Kiwi adults surveyed (38%) admitted to risking their personal information or privacy in one of the following ways during the holiday season – posting a picture of their travel destination (24%), tagging their current location on social media (19%), posting a picture of an expensive gift they received (12%), posting a picture showing their train/plane/bus ticket without removing any personal information (10%), and/or revealing their travel plans on social media (10%). Alarmingly – but perhaps not surprisingly – younger adults are more than three times as likely to conduct any of these behaviours during the holiday season (68% aged 18-39 vs. 20% aged 40+).

“Criminals only require a few pieces of your personal information to commit fraud and identity theft, so New Zealanders should stick to reputable sites to avoid their data being compromised and shared on the dark web,” warns Mark Gorrie, Norton Managing Director APJ, NortonLifeLock.

So, how do we avoid being caught up in Christmas scams? Here’s what the experts say:

  1. Stick to reputable retailers: Do your due diligence, including checking seller ratings, and preferably purchasing from retailers with a physical address, a customer service phone number and a professional-looking site. Warning signs of sketchy sites include poor spelling, odd design and slow loading.
  2. Avoid suspicious links from social media ads or unfamiliar emails:  Chasing a bargain? Don’t click on suspicious links even if they look attractive. Stay vigilant and don’t fall for the cheap price tag.
  3. If you get a message, an email or SMS about an item you didn’t order, stop and think: If you’re unsure whether a message is legitimate, contact the business through established channels you can find, chat through their website or call their customer service phone number
  4. Use a virtual private network (VPN) when making online purchases on public or unsecured Wifi
  5. Look out for fake websites: Fraudsters may set up fake websites of products that don’t exist so they can collect payments for goods that they’ll never send. They may even provide “excuses” for a while, so by the time you realise, you might be stuck – out of pocket and missing a gift for someone on your list.
  6. Use reputable online safety tools:  Identity theft is an ongoing concern, with people’s personal data used to take out loans and secure credit cards in the victim’s name. You can choose comprehensive tools from Norton for your devices to flag unsafe sites and filter fraudulent SMS messages.
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