Scammers doing it by the numbers

20:02, May 27 2014

It's a modern problem with an ancient solution.

But the battle to remember a proliferation of bank card numbers and passwords is tripping up some people, and putting their money at risk from scammers.

In a recent case highlighted by Banking Ombudsman Deborah Battell, a thief stole a woman's bank cards from her bag at work and headed straight to a nearby cash machine, where he phoned her and pretended she had won a $1000 shopping voucher.

He asked her to give him a random four-digit password to access her winnings, so she gave him a series of three passwords. One was the Pin for her two eftpos cards, which allowed the thief to steal $6000 from two of her accounts.

"It's really preying on people's psychology, because these days you require so many passwords and people do limit the number of them," Battell said.

It was vital that every bank card had a different Pin, which was never used for another purpose. "The more you use the same number, the more likely you are to be scammed."


However, she offered no easy method to help people recall bank Pins and passwords: "If you need to commit anything in life to memory, it's your bank Pin."

People should also avoid using obvious Pins, such as birthdays, phone numbers or addresses.

"You've got to pick something you can remember, but not something anyone else can guess."

Revealing a Pin number to anyone else was a complete no-no. It was vital to treat anyone who asked for one with suspicion. "Banks never ask for people's Pin numbers."

The Bankers' Association agreed. "Anyone who asks for your Pin number, even if they say they're from your bank or a retailer you know, will in all likelihood be trying to scam you."

The convenience of round-the-clock access to banking services had added responsibilities for customers, despite hard work by banks to protect them, association chief executive Kirk Hope said.

"We all have an important role to play in protecting ourselves and our money from financial crime."

NetSafe, a non-profit organisation promoting cyberspace safety, knew of about $4.4 million that left New Zealand in the year to last August in money scams.

It was a growing problem. Just yesterday, it received 10 complaints about a new scam, chief technology officer Sean Lyons said.

People were phoned at random and told they had won a government grant but needed to give their bank account details to receive the cash.

About 25 people had complained about the scam in the past few months, but he was unaware of anyone who had handed over their account details or lost money, though some were tempted.

He emphasised that people would not be contacted by a government agency in such circumstances. "These things just don't happen, and the more people realise it, the better."

The Dominion Post