When BNZ financial crime investigator Nic Vryenhoek calls a customer to warn them they are being scammed, he’s happy when they are suspicious.

“They should be. My key message is to question everything.

“If someone calls you purporting to be from the bank or anywhere else you should be questioning if they are who they say they are.”

He never asks a customer for personal information – he already has that. He will never ask someone to install anything on their computer.

And he’s fully supportive of a customer who hangs up and calls the bank on a number they recognise and trust.

The trouble is, even when customers are warned they are being scammed, they can ignore the warning and plough on.

Romance scams are some of the worst cases, Vryenhoek tells The Detail.

So stressful is the experience of being scammed, people never forget it.

“What would I be in that situation? I’d be stressed, nervous, I’d be worried.”

But Vryenhoek and his colleague Ashley Kai Fong want them to get over the humiliation and embarrassment and talk about it.

Part of the problem is that Kiwis are too trusting, says Kai Fong, head of financial crime in BNZ’s fraud protection team. 

“Makes us a nice target,” he says.

Around $183 million has gone out of New Zealanders’ accounts over the past year, a 20 percent rise on the year before .

But only about one-1000th of a percent of BNZ’s transactions are fraud. 

“So it’s very small,” he says, which is a reason to not just stop every suspicious-looking transaction in its tracks, leaving customers unable to do their transactions. 

The bank’s main message to customers is to recognise the signs. 

And just because you’re young, don’t be fooled into thinking you won’t be fooled.

“We’ve got some research that says that 24 to 44-year-olds who think they’re digital natives because they’ve grown up with it, they think they’re not susceptible to a scam. They’re just as susceptible as anybody else.

“One of the issues is because they’re so comfortable with technologies they get a bit complacent sometimes.”

And just as there’s no typical victim, there’s no profile for a scammer either. 

“You just don’t know, for somebody, what the tipping point is for criminality,” says Kai Fong.

“We’re in a cost-of-living crisis at the moment and you just don’t know what the tipping point is for somebody to become a money mule or maybe think it’s a great idea to go and start scamming people … there could be somebody who’s desperate out there who thinks ‘This could be a “get rich” scheme for me’ … ‘I’m not really hurting anybody’, because you can’t see your victims. But actually what you’re doing is causing a whole lot of harm in the community, and a lot of suffering for people. 

“It’s their day job … they’re thinking of ways to do it all the time. 

“Some of them are quite brazen. They’re fighting for their livelihood – which is your money!”

If you get a text scam, you can forward the message to 7726 where the Department of Internal Affairs will log it and text you back asking you to complete a report. 

Check out how to listen to and follow The Detail here.  

You can also stay up-to-date by liking us on Facebook or following us on Twitter

Sharon Brettkelly is co-host of The Detail podcast.

Leave a comment