Webcam blackmail, bomb threat emails used as online scams jump

Online fraud and scams hit a record high in New Zealand in the last three months of 2018, including webcam blackmail and bomb threat emails, and Kiwis lost more than $14 million to cyber criminals during the year.

Computer (file picture). Source: 1 NEWS

The data has been revealed in the latest quarterly report of the Government's Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) which tracks cyber security incidents and attacks, and provides advice and alerts on these.

CERT NZ received more than 1300 reports of cyber security issues between October and December 2018 from businesses and individuals around New Zealand. 

CERT NZ Director Rob Pope said criminals rapidly modified their tactics during the quarter to extort money and information and these efforts are paying off.

In the last quarter of last year New Zealanders reported losses of over $5.9 million - up $3 million form the third quarter - and more than $14 million overall in 2018.

Scammers evolve their approach and employ new methods to continue tricking people into paying up - CERT NZ Director Rob Pope

Incidents were reported across a range of categories in the fourth quarter, with scams and fraud continuing to have a big impact on New Zealanders, he said. Fifty per cent of all reports received could be attributed to scams and fraud, an increase of 230 per cent from the third quarter.

And $4.9 million in reported financial loss was to scams and fraud. 

"These scams are becoming increasingly professional. They generate a considerable amount of money, so scammers evolve their approach and employ new methods to continue tricking people into paying up," Mr Pope said. 

In quarter four, 36 per cent of all reports related to email extortion scams - threat-based emails that try and trick people into paying money to make the threat go away. 

"We saw this type of scam evolve rapidly, from webcam blackmail emails that contained personal information like passwords in October, through to bomb threat emails in December," Mr Pope said.

"It’s more important than ever that Kiwis have a trusted source they can turn to for actionable advice to protect themselves online," he said.

"It’s CERT NZ’s job to help New Zealanders report the cyber security incidents they are impacted by and get the information they need to recover. 

"These reports also allow us to aggregate our information alongside international sources to make sure New Zealanders have access to the most up-to-date information on cyber security threats," says Mr Pope.

A total of 783 reports were about individuals, up 103 per cent from quarter three. Reports from the age group 65-plus made up over quarter of reports about individuals.

Malware reports continued to increase with 48 reports, more than double the amount in quarter three.