BEWARE: NZ Importers Targeted by Email Hacking Scam – 5 Ways to Control It

2-minute read

A dangerous and highly effective new online scam is affecting New Zealand importers. The scam has already left several Kiwi businesses severely out of pocket, with some businesses losing deposits of over USD 250,000 to scammers.

How does this hacking scam work?

Email hackers are infiltrating the email accounts of overseas suppliers – particularly free email accounts like Hotmail and Yahoo – and sending fake emails to their New Zealand customers. These emails, which tend to target NZ importers who have an existing relationship with the overseas supplier, ask the customer to pay their deposit for goods into a different bank account than usual.

In some cases where the scam has been successful, the importer believed they had checked with their overseas supplier to ensure the request was genuine. But they used the contact details listed in the email to do so – and these contact details were also fake.

Martin Cocker of anti-cyber crime organisation NetSafe says this scam is more effective than most. That’s because the hoax emails don’t seem particularly unusual, so no ‘red flags’ are raised. Many NZ importers say their overseas suppliers do change banks or account numbers occasionally, so they aren’t surprised by a request to change normal payment routines.

How can you avoid being scammed?

The main rule to remember with any financial transaction conducted online is to remain aware and suspicious. Even if you’ve dealt with your overseas supplier for a long time, you shouldn’t be embarrassed about being overly cautious.

Here are our guidelines for making sure you don’t become a victim of this dangerous hacking scam:

  • Be suspicious of any requests to change normal payment procedures, whether they appear genuine or not.
  • Always double-check that any such request is genuine before proceeding.
  • Never hit ‘reply’ to an email regarding financial or contractual matters, and don’t use the phone or fax details from the email signature either. Only use the contact details stored in your address book.
  • If possible, phone a known contact within the company you’re dealing with to verify the request.
  • Be particularly suspicious of free email accounts like Hotmail and Yahoo, and never take anything as fact when it comes from one of these email addresses – always double check.

Have you ever received a scam email?

If you’ve been the victim of an online scam, there’s now a website where you can report it. The orb has been developed by NetSafe to simplify the process of reporting online crime for New Zealanders. Your report will then be passed on to the organisation that is best able to investigate the incident or offer you advice.

Concerned about being scammed? An experienced freight forwarder can help protect your business from common import/export scams.  Use the enquiry form on our website. 

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