2 March 2024

Scam reporting down 80% after operation led by DIA busts New Zealand scammers

Te Tari Taiwhenua, Department of Internal Affairs (DIA), reveals that scam reporting is down by 80% after commencing an operation against a criminal network of text message phishing scammers, as shown in the 2023 Digital Messaging Transparency Report it published today.

In 2023, through the first operation of its kind in Aotearoa, DIA led ‘Operation Cargo’, which uncovered a transnational criminal network of scammers which can be held responsible for most SMS scams in New Zealand in 2023.

The SMS scam disruption operation comprised 12 search warrants in 2023 during which DIA seized over 4,000 items being used by scammers, including over $35,000 worth of SIM cards and hardware, almost $10,000 worth of luxury items including a designer handbag and skincare products, and over $56,000 cash.

From the initiation of Operation Cargo in May through to December 2023, DIA saw an 83% decrease in reports to its 7726 public scam reporting service.

“Operation Cargo revealed an approach to scamming not seen before here in Aotearoa, where scammers are using special software and hardware to send SMS scam messages en masse,” says Joe Teo, Manager Digital Messaging and Systems at DIA.

“Through working together with NZ Police, NZ Customs, and CERT NZ, and closely with New Zealand telecommunications providers and banks, we disrupted numerous scam campaigns throughout the year.

“One reason Operation Cargo has been successful is due to the reports New Zealanders send to us through 7726. Your reporting is used to help us locate scammers. It does make a difference and means we can bring these scams to an end and hold the culprits responsible.

“DIA’s focus in 2024 remains the same as always, to stay ahead of trends in the scam environment by working with our domestic and international partners, and to hold scammers accountable for their actions.”

All Operation Cargo investigations remain open, restricting the information that can be shared with New Zealanders until they are closed. However, the 2023 Digital Messaging Transparency Report provides the details that the department can currently share about Operation Cargo, and outlines its wider approach to combating harm from spam and scams.

The report can be viewed at

If you receive a scam SMS text message, please report it free of charge by forwarding the message to 7726, or head to our website for a step-by-step guide of how to report spam: How to report SMS spam.



Notes for media:

  • A spokesperson is available for interview.
  • We can provide photographs of seized goods on request.
  • As detailed in the 2023 Digital Messaging Transparency Report, as at 31 December 2023 27 Operation Cargo investigations remained open.
  • We cannot share any details about investigations that are still open.
  • We will share any information that we can about the outcomes of ongoing investigations with the public in due course.
  • The Unsolicited Electronic Messages Act 2007 is a civil regime, and its enforcement provisions include civil enforcement actions. The maximum penalty that can be ordered under the UEMA is $200,000 for an individual and $500,000 for an organisation.


Media Contact:

Media Desk – Te Tari Taiwhenua Department of Internal Affairs

Mobile: +64 27 535 8639