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An example of a scam text regarding missing parcel.

Photo/PMN News


Government operation results in scam reports dropping by 80 per cent

The Department of Internal Affairs worked with NZ Police and NZ Customers Service to execute 'Operation Cargo', which discovered a transnational network of scammers employing elusive methods and technology.

A Department of Internal Affairs operation launched last year resulted in an 80 per cent decrease in SMS scam reports to their service.

Poni Lealofi, who is the Senior Investigator in Digital Messaging and Systems Department of Internal Affairs, says they launched "Operation Cargo" in May 2023.

The operation involved cooperation with the NZ Police and NZ Customs Service in executing 12 search warrants. They also discovered a transnational network of scammers responsible for the majority of SMS scams.

Lealofi says the 7726 service encourages people who receive scam or spam texts or emails to forward them to that service so that they are marked.

"We worked to the end of the year in terms of the investigations we executed and from 'Operation Cargo' we saw an 80 per cent decrease in reports to our 7726 service.

"Specifically for 7726 it's scam messages on your phone being reported to the departments and then we act on those reports."


He says the operation uncovered the technology scammers, typically from Australia and UK, which included SIM boxes or SMS hardware imported from overseas.

"People would buy mass volumes of SIM cards and put them into the SIM boxes."

Lealofi says that the SIM boxes would be connected to a laptop with TeamViewer remote access, a software which allows a user to remotely control another's computer, which is meant to be used for tech support.

"So the people behind the application were the ones sending out the messages.

"What we found in New Zealand was the logistics where people buying the SIM cards provided it to these nationalists.

"Then they would do the kind of work on the electronic devices, so we uncovered a whole amount of SIM boxes."

He says they also had applications on their phones where they could send messages directly from their phone but that its greatest prowess is the technology's adaptability.

"What was so sophisticated about it was that they didn't want to leave a trail.

"So you use a SIM card and then dispose of it straight away once it gets blocked by the telecommunications company.

"I think these individuals were young and we've seen a lot of individuals with the knowledge on the Tech side of things and so they've come here to exploit some of our telecommunication operations."

Lealofi says the department will strive to continue to stay a step ahead of evolving scam trends but that public vigilance and proactive measures are equally as important.

He says for example check if you are expecting a package as some scammers have pretended to be a courier service saying you have missed your delivery.

He also says double check if the bank you bank with actually sends messages, as plenty of banks of disclaimers that they would not directly email you regarding certain processes.

"Look closely into the contents of the messages like spelling mistakes or incorrect grammar or anything like that.

"From a Pacific lens with our oldest generation they're not as tech-savvy.

"So what we encourage is the kids come and help their parents. Look at these messages making sure Mum, Dad, Nana or Papa aren't clicking on these messages on their phone.

"That's from a Pacific lens you know? Helping out our vulnerable communities as such."

Watch the full interview via 531pi's Facebook page below:

If you receive a message you believe to be spam, Forward TXT "spam" to 7726. For more information on this service click here.