Covid 19 coronavirus: Cert NZ warns over fake vaccination invites

New Zealand’s Covid-19 vaccination campaign has started to ramp up – and so are scammers’ attempts to exploit it, Cert NZ warns.

In its latest quarterly report, Cert (the Government’s Computer Emergency Response Team) says it received fewer than 10 complaints about Covid invitation scams in the first three months of this year, with the programme in its infancy.

But it is anticipating the volume of scams will increase over coming weeks.

So how can you tell if a txt message alerting you to an appointment is genuine?

“Attackers are opportunistic and are constantly evolving their campaigns to try and trick people into sharing their financial and personal information. The Covid-19 vaccine-related scams are no exception,” says Cert director Rob Pope.

“The easiest thing to remember is the Covid-19 vaccine is free. At no point will you be asked to pay for the vaccine, or pay for your place in the queue.”

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If in any doubt about a Covid vaccine invite, you can check with Cert, which the Ministry of Health has appointed as the central co-ordination agency for vaccine-related scams and misinformation.

The agency can be contacted via its website, or by phoning 0800 CERT NZ (0800 2378 69).

Elsewhere in its March quarter report – compiled before the ransomware attack on the Waikato DHB – cert reported a 7 per cent quarter-on-quarter increase in direct losses from crime, which hit $3m in the three months to March.

The number of incidents reported actually fell from 2097 to 1431, but more money was lost per incident.

Phishing and credential harvesting remained easily the largest category for complaints, with 652 incidents reported for the quarter.

Ransomware generated just 12 complaints. But there has in part been a shift in tactics from ransomware attackers, who now favour attempting to extort big targets for millions over trying to shake down many individuals for a few hundred dollars each.

Earlier, Cert NZ identified sim card hijacking as a rising area of concern, with various incidents costing Kiwis more than $1m.

There was progress on that front today, however, with an industry group representing Spark, Vodafone and 2degrees announcing a new system of confirmation messages that will be sent if someone tries to get your cellphone number transferred to their control.

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