Mobile phone harassment and abuse

A look at the problems of harassment and bullying on phones and mobiles with advice on what you can do to protect yourself and those around you

infinity tattooed hand holding phone with artistic image that conveys a faceless person

Mobile and phone harassment describes any type of voicemail, phone call or text/video/photo message that is unwanted and/or leaves the recipient feeling harassed, threatened, tormented, humiliated, embarrassed or otherwise victimised.

People who use digital technologies to bully and harass can leave an electronic trail, so it may be possible to investigate if their behaviour is criminal and even to prosecute them.

How does bullying happen on a mobile?

Bullying and harassment on mobile phones can take a number of forms. It can happen through:

  • mean or offensive messages – received once or repeatedly;
  • being bombarded by a large volume of messages (e.g. over 25 a day);
  • offensive or upsetting photo or video messages;
  • threatening messages; and
  • persistent unwanted messages.

What should I do if there is a threat to my safety?

Anyone threatening to physically hurt you or damage your property is breaking the law. If you feel like you are in immediate danger call 111 straight away.

Once the immediate threat has passed you need to record a copy of the threat(s). You can find out how to gather electronic evidence here and report what’s happening to the police. You will need to go into a Police Station with your evidence to lay a formal complaint.  You can also talk to your telecommunications provider about threatening messages or calls so they can help.

What can I do if my partner, ex-partner or family member is harassing me?

If this person is harassing or abusing you via electronic means, you can investigate taking out a protection order which covers all forms of communication including phone, mobile and internet. For more information contact Shine on 0508 744 633.

If the person harassing you has never been in a domestic relationship with you, you may be able to take out a Restraining Order under the Harassment Act 1997 which covers all forms of communication including phone, mobile and internet.

What should you do if a young person is being harassed via mobile phone?

The most important thing you can do is let the young person know that you are there to support them. And remain calm. Do not isolate the victim from their social networks or take away their mobile as many young people will not report an incident if they fear their access to online technology will be removed.

What can my telecommunication provider do?

There are a number of things a telco provider can do which ranges from sending a warning message to the harasser or suspending them from the network.

How to make a complaint to the telecommunication providers

New Zealand’s telecommunication companies have agreements in place to work together to help stop mobile harassment. They also assist law enforcement agencies in severe cases and can advise you on how to block numbers. To get help from your phone or mobile provider ring them using the contact details below:

  • 2degrees: Call 200 from your mobile or 0800 022 022. Visit the 2degrees website for help blocking a number from a 2degrees phone.
  • Spark: Call 0800 809 806 from a landline or mobile.
  • One NZ: Blacklist is a free service for One NZ mobile customers. Sign into My One NZ, click ‘Menu’, click ‘Blacklist’ under ‘Your Plan’ and enter the phone number you want to block. Click ‘Block Number’. To add a number to One NZ Blacklist via text: simply FreeTXT the following to 713: BLACKLIST ADD (mobile number). You’ll get a TXT back confirming the added number.
  • If you are receiving unwanted or harassing calls, once you have four examples the complaint can be escalated by calling 777 from your mobile or 0800 800 021 using a landline.

You can also consider blocking the caller.

What can be done to prevent mobile phone harassment?

There are a few things you can to minimise the chances of harassment and bullying. This includes:

  • Being careful about who you give your number to and not giving someone else’s number out without asking them first
  • Not replying to texts or voice mails from people you do not know
  • Always asking before you take a photo of another person and checking it is okay to share before sending it to anyone else. Once a picture is sent it may be circulated to other people
  • Remembering that text pictures can be manipulated by others after they have been sent, posted online or distributed to an unknown audience
  • Thinking about whether something you send might make another person feel uncomfortable. Whether it is a ‘joke’ or something about another person, be aware that it might be taken the wrong way or sent on to someone else. If in doubt, don’t send it.

How to handle mobile phone threats

  • Don’t reply: Sometimes the sender will get bored and stop sending messages if they don’t get a reply. Another reason for not replying is that if a complaint needs to be made to the telecommunications company, replying can delay the process. Often people will reply to messages if they do not recognise the number or because the content is upsetting.
  • Keep the evidence: Don’t delete harassing content as the police and telecommunication provider need this to help. Keep a log of the time, date and the phone number the messages were sent from. The date and time of the message is usually contained in a ‘time-stamp’ at the beginning or end of the text message.
  • Talk to someone: Encourage young people to talk to a trusted adult (parent, teacher or counsellor) as it’s important they talk to someone so support can be provided.
  • Report it: If a message threatens to harm a person or property, the message needs to be taken to the local police station. Explain what has happened and get a police complaint number. If someone is in immediate danger call 111 straight away. You should also make a report to Netsafe, you can do this here

More advice and information

  • If someone is misusing a telephone they may be committing an offence under the Telecommunications Act.
  • Be alert and stay safe online. Learn more about how you can stay safe and get help from online bullying and abuse.


Our helpline is open from 8am – 8pm Monday to Friday and 9am – 5pm on weekends. You can make a report to Netsafe by:


  • Police – Call 111. If you or someone you know are at risk of imminent danger or a crime is being committed contact 111 immediately for help.
  • Shine – 0508 744 633. A free helpline to provide support for people who have experienced abuse by a partner or family member, people who use violence and want to make a change, and people who are worried about a friend or family member.
  • Women’s Refuge – 0800 REFUGE or 0800 733 843. A free support service to people who have been victims of domestic or family violence.
  • Netsafe – Text ‘Netsafe’ to 4282, call 0508 NETSAFE (0508 638 723), email [email protected] or report online. Netsafe can provide help and support with online challenges including online bullying, harassment and abuse.
  • Help (Auckland) – 09 623 1700 or [email protected]. A free 24 hour helpline to support victims of sexual assault.
  • Help (Wellington) – 04 801 6655 or contact online. A free 24 hour helpline to support victims of sexual assault.
  • Youthline – 0800 376 633, Free TXT 234 or email [email protected]. Youthline provides a free counselling service for young people.
  • Lifeline Suicide Crisis Helpline – 0508 TAUTOKO (0508 828 865). A free 24 hour suicide crisis helpline operated by trained counsellors.
  • Need to Talk – Free text or call 1737. A free 24 hour call or text help line operated by trained counsellors.
  • Rape Prevention Education – Contact online. Provides education and information to prevent sexual violence.
  • Family Violence – 0800 456 450 to find out about local services or how to help someone near you.
  • Elder Abuse Helpline – call 0800 32 668 65 (0800 EA NOT OK) – a 24-hour service answered by registered nurses who can connect to local elder abuse specialist providers.
  • Tu Wahine Trust – 09 838 8700 for kaupapa Māori counselling, therapy and support for survivors of sexual harm (mahi tukino) and violence within whānau.
  • Shakti New Zealand – 0800 742 584 for culturally competent support services for women, children and families of Asian, African and Middle Eastern origin who have experienced domestic violence.
  • Safe to Talk – sexual harm helpline. Call 0800 044 334, text 4334 or email [email protected].
  • Rape Crisis Centres –  0800 88 3300 for contact details of your local centre. Provides support for survivors of sexual abuse, their families, friends and whānau.
  • Male Survivors Aotearoa New Zealand – 0800 044 344. Offers one-to-one, peer and support groups for male survivors of sexual abuse and their significant others.
  • Hey Bro helpline – 0800 HeyBro (0800 439 276). 24/7 help for men who feel they’re going to harm a loved one or whānau member.
  • Korowai Tumanoko – Text or call 022 474 7044 for a kaupapa Māori service for those with concerning or harmful sexual behaviour.
  • Stop – support for concerning or harmful sexual behaviour.
  • Kidsline – 0800 54 37 54 (0800 kidsline) for young people up to 18 years of age (24-hour service).
  • Skylight – 0800 299 100 helping children, young people and their families and whānau through tough times of change, loss, trauma and grief.
  • Oranga Tamariki – 0508 325 459 (0508 FAMILY) or email [email protected] for concerns about children and young people.

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