Release: New Anti-Scamming Unit will help protect Kiwis’ cash

Labour will establish a new Anti-Scamming Unit to better protect New Zealanders being targeted by illegal scammers says Labour Commerce and Consumer Affairs spokesperson Duncan Webb.

“Too many New Zealanders are being targeted by criminals seeking to swindle innocent Kiwis out of their money through increasingly complex scams – we want to stamp it out” Duncan Webb said.

“Many victims are amongst our most vulnerable and cross sector support and cooperation is vital to ensure Kiwis are being protected. We have already been working closely with banks in this area for some time. Falling victim to a scam can be catastrophic – especially people lose a large part of their life savings – this can be doubly devastating for our elderly.

“We know that 9 out of 10 New Zealanders were targeted by scams in the last 12 months. Reports show that Kiwis were scammed out of a record $20 million last year alone.

“Labour wants to stop scammers in their tracks, and ensure their victims are being supported and educated to avoid being stung in future.

“The Anti-Scamming Unit will include both government and industry, bringing together the work being done from detection, prevention and education, through to finding and prosecuting criminals.

“Prevention through education is only one way we can support those effected. Part of the Unit’s work will be to clarify the steps banks should take to detect and shut down scams, and where liability for compensation should fall,” Duncan Webb said.

The Unit, made up of a core of 15-20 experts, will sit inside the Financial Markets Authority (FMA) and include support from other agencies such as the Reserve Bank, MBIE and Police. Representatives from banks, telecommunications firms and social media companies will be included in the Unit’s work, as will non-government agencies such as consumer advocates.

“In Government we’ve made good progress, broadening work which prevents and responds to scams. CERT NZ (National Cyber Security Centre) and Police have continued their critical roles at the hard end of security and law enforcement respectively.

“The FMA has increased its activity receiving and investigating complaints, monitoring international activity, publishing warnings and alerts, taking enforcement action and shutting down imposter websites, and running community education sessions.

“This worked meant only 1 in 10 Kiwis fell victim to the scams they faced last year, and small and medium enterprises saw their scamming rates drop from 47% to 34%.

“But there is still more to do - scammers are persistent and continue to get more sophisticated and find more victims and we want it stopped,” Duncan Webb said.