15 April 2024

Kiwis lose $6 million to online scams as criminals use new AI-tools

New Zealanders have already lost almost $6 million to online scams in the first quarter of 2023 that saw a spike in cyber-crime of 66%.

The number of reported scams in the first quarter of this year are up 12% from last quarter and financial losses are up 66% to almost $6 million, according to a report of Cert NZ – the New Zealand’s Computer Emergency Response Team.

The trend is that scams are on the rise (up 23% from Q4 2023). In the last eight quarters, $39.6 million losses were reported to Cert NZ, with an average quarterly loss of $4.9m.

Phishing remains the number one cyber incident reported to Cert NZ, however, in 2023, new methodologies are being used that have people actually approaching scammers.

Scammers set up malicious websites and ensure their website appears high in the results of search engines, like Google. These websites usually mimic larger organisaions like banks, investment firms or large exporters.

Spike in scams
Cyber criminals are using new tactics to scam

A person goes searching for an investment comparison website – for example, ‘term deposit comparison nz’ hoping for a better return on his investment. Top search results also include fake sites and serve as an initial point of contact between this person and the scammer. This starts providing of all personal info to scammers themselves. In February this year, scammers were able to steal millions of dollars through professional-looking, but malicious websites.

The report also covers the emerging trends of artificial intelligence (AI) being used in scams.

“The cyber security world is taking notice of how scammers are using AI tools,” says Cert NZ Director Rob Pope. “AI can be used to write more convincing phishing emails in various languages, to create malicious code, and to even impersonate people in live chats.”

In its quarterly Cyber Security Insights Report, Cert NZ covers the new tactics of scammers running investment scams and romance scams.

Cyber criminals are using search engine ads and professional-looking documentation to scam New Zealanders looking to invest money. One scam campaign in February cost New Zealanders millions of dollars in a very short time, which reflects how quickly someone can lose their assets if they’re not alert.


In Q1 2023 (1 January to 31 March 2023), 1,968 incidents were reported to CERT NZ involving $5.8 million in direct financial loss – fourth highest quarterly loss since Q3 2020. Sixteen people lost over $100,000, and 264 people lost between $100 and $1000.

Rob Pope asks that everyone be more aware online and be vigilant. “In general, the key is to always be vigilant. Take your time when you see investment opportunities online, verify exactly who you’re talking to, don’t give away your personal information and keep yourself secure online.”

AI-assisted scams have reached New Zealand, and while CERT NZ hasn’t seen many reports specifically about AI, its analysts believe that it’s only a matter of time before it takes off.

While AI is making scams easier to create, the tactics are the same kind that has been used for years. As such, CERT NZ’s advice on avoiding them is unchanged:

  • don’t believe promises of over-the-top investment returns,
  • triple-check every company before investing in them, and
  • don’t reply to investment opportunities that arrive via Whatsapp or other message platforms.

If you believe you have been the target of an online scam, contact CERT NZ and, if you have lost money, contact your bank, immediately.

Also read: https://www.newsviews.co.nz/record-financial-losses-to-cyber-crime-a-concern-says-certnz/

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