5 Oct 2023

Labour promises to set up 'Anti-Scamming Unit'

12:15 pm on 5 October 2023

Watch Labour's Carmel Sepuloni and Duncan Webb speak to reporters here:

Labour is promising to set up an "Anti-Scamming Unit" to crack down on illegal scams and help protect New Zealanders from them, if it wins the election.

The unit of 15 to 20 experts would be part of the Financial Markets Authority (FMA), with support from other agencies like the Reserve Bank, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and police - and coordinate with banks, telecommunications firms and social media companies.

The party's commerce and consumer affairs spokesperson, Duncan Webb, announced the policy at Pacific social services provider Vaka Tautua in Manukau on Thursday morning, saying nine out of 10 New Zealanders were targeted by scams within the past year.

He told reporters in Auckland the new unit would cost less than $1 million to set up.

"Reports show that Kiwis were scammed out of a record $20 million last year alone ... Labour wants to stop scammers in their tracks, and ensure their victims are being supported and educated to avoid being stung in future."

He said the party had been working closely with banks on the matter for some time, but the new unit would help clarify the steps banks should take to detect scams and shut them down, and would identify who should pay for compensation.

Work by the FMA to target scams had led to a decrease in scamming rates, with the percentage of small and medium enterprises affected falling from 47 percent to 34 percent, and one in 10 New Zealanders falling victim to scams, he said.

There was currently no clear set of rules over who was financially liable after a scam, and the banks he had spoken to were "very keen" to work with the government, he said.

The unit would not have increased powers, but would coordinate efforts, Webb said.

"There are certainly instances where banks could do better and we need to explore that.

"This is just another step, an additional step we can take to improve the response."

He had not spoken directly to any social media companies yet, but said they "absolutely need to be part of the solution".

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