Netsafe Quarterly Report October – December 2020

CEO Update

Kia ora,

COVID-19 changed the world and Aotearoa in significant ways. The use of digital technology accelerated and enabled people to connect when they couldn’t be together, but it also meant the volume of online harm increased. Our team saw first-hand the good and the bad of people using the internet in 2020, and the last quarter of the year continued that way.

One of the ways we were able to demonstrate the impact of COVID-19 was the insights into Netsafe’s Lockdown experience. This included research that revealed the number of individuals suffering unwanted digital communications – encouraging people to hurt or kill themselves – increased. This was supported by our data which painted a picture of how Lockdown impacted online harm and drove demand for self-help resources.

We also welcomed two of our Youth Action Squad as interns, supported schools with incident support and awareness, ramped up public education which included a nod to the Netsafe of old and worked with different stakeholders to help the community stay safe.

Sadly, one of the other noteworthy things to recognise is the impact scammers are having on our community. Netsafe are only half-way through our financial year, and already nearly $12million has been reported as lost to scammers. To put this figure into context, approximately $19 million in total was reported in FY20.

As remote working becomes commonplace and people are more contactable, we are seeing scammers shift towards more targeted, personalised schemes. They are more involved in promoting their scams and convincing people to part with money.

We are working more closely than ever before with the people who are coming to us to help them untangle the deception. We continue to work with the many partner agencies working to disrupt scam operations and ensuring we are providing relevant and timely awareness information.

Ngā mihi,
Martin Cocker

Report Contents

Senior Leadership Team Update

Neil Melhuish, Director of Policy and Research

During the last quarter Netsafe released findings from studies of two very different topics – digital parenting and the impact of lockdown on online risk.

In October we released insights from a study looking at parents’, caregivers’ and whānau perceptions of children’s experiences of online risk and harm. It was our third report from Ngā taiohi matihiko o Aotearoa – New Zealand Kids Online, our implementation of the Global Kids Online methodology, and the first to look at parents’ perspectives of the challenges their children navigate online.

Research suggests that parents tend to underestimate their child’s engagement in risky and/or hurtful behaviours as well as their experiences of harm online.  This is an important gap as parents play a critical role in helping their child to prevent or deal with bothersome online experiences and risky behaviours. They also provide children with emotional support when things go wrong online.

Our study measured parental knowledge of children’s experiences of risks and harm online and compared parents’ level of awareness with their child’s self-reported experiences. The findings paint a fascinating picture of digital parenting and continue to inform Netsafe’s resources for parents.

Our other study revealed the impact of the COVID-19 lockdown  on peoples experiences of unwanted digital communications. Our study generated the first nationally representative data on this phenomenon. Netsafe’s evidence shows that unexpected health and social events can trigger changes in people’s experiences of online risk, this reflects findings from our work on online hate speech following the Christchurch Terrorist Attacks.

Looking ahead, Netsafe will release more insights into life during Lockdown, including a look at its impact on intimate partnerships, and another study related to digital parenting. If you are interested in learning more about our research and how we can work together to generate and apply research evidence, please contact me.

Neil Melhuish

Quarterly Results

Between October and December 2020, Netsafe received 6,063 reports overall which is a 3.4 percent increase compared to the last quarter. Netsafe experienced a 22.6 percent decrease in personal harm reports, a 23.2 percent increase in scam reports and a 16.3 percent decrease in other reports – these reports relate to objectionable material.




*percentage change based on reports made to Netsafe when compared to the last quarter

Reports by age group















Reports by region

Auckland: 38%
Bay of Plenty: 5.8%
Canterbury: 12.4%
Gisborne: 0.8%
Hawke's Bay: 2.4%
Manawatu-Wanganui: 4.6%
Marlborough: 0.8%
Nelson: 1.6%
Northland: 2.3%
Otago: 4.7%
Southland: 1.1%
Taranaki: 1.9%
Tasman: 0.6%
Waikato: 7.5%
Wellington: 14.3%
West Coast: 0.5%

Reports by gender








Personal Harm Reporting

There were 483 breaches of the 10 communication principles reported to Netsafe between October and December. This is an 11.2 percent decrease compared to the previous quarter. The most reported personal harm categories for the quarter were:

Reported breaches under the Harmful Digital Communications Act*


False Allegations

Threatening, intimidating & menacing

Discloses sensitive personal facts

Encouraging others to cause harm

* Cases often involve breaches of more than one communication principle

Scam and Fraud Reporting

There were 3,814 scam reports made to Netsafe during this quarter. Of these reports, 992 related to people losing money to scammers. People reported a combined loss of $4,383,379.36 which is a 28.7 petcent decrease compared to the previous quarter. The average loss was $4,146.07. A clear theme in these reports to Netsafe was a focus on targeted, high value scams.

The most reported category was investment frad followed by relationship and trust fraud. Unfortuantely, investment fraud saw an increase in the amount of money lost per report with the average reported loss now well over $20,000.

Scam reporting trends

Relationship & trust fraud: Online dating scams require a large time commitment by scammers. Often the difference between a genuine online partner and a romance scammer will be imperceptible until they start asking for money or ask for money to be forwarded elsewhere. In 2020, online dating scammers have taken advantage of the online availability of the people they’re targeting. Emulating a genuine, internet centred relationship has become more realistic for many scammers as the people they target are connecting more frequently and more meaningfully online.

Investment fraud:  Investment scams continue to take advantage of newsworthy topics to lure people in. We’ve seen fabricated testimonials from high profile people to sell cryptocurrencies and dating apps used to recruit people to fake investment websites that have no withdrawal function. Scammers continue to target COVID-19 referencing ‘discounted’ and ‘soon to skyrocket’ assets to solicit payments. Investment scams are amongst the most vicious and devastating scams reported to Netsafe as they’re often targeted towards people that are nearing retirement.

Scam & fraud snapshot







Top scam categories reported

Products & Services

Prize & Grant

Investment fraud

Relationship & trust


Education & Engagement Update

Netsafe remains committed to providing relevant, timely and useful information to help the community have more positive online experiences. In this quarter, we issued various media releases, published our Annual Report from 2019/2020, continued to work closely with schools, ramped up our Your News Bulletin activity to combat fake news and decked the ‘online’ halls to share our festive season tips.

We also worked with other stakeholders to ensure the community was getting useful information to stay safe. This included joining with the Department of Internal Affairs and Classification Office to share guidance on how parents could support children exposed to harmful online content, supporting various awareness weeks including Fraud Awareness Week and Cyber Smart Week, participating in NetHui and supporting Pink Shirt Day

One of the most interesting initiatives involved welcoming two of our Youth Action Squad ambassadors as summer interns. They came in to upskill on all thing online safety and to work with us to develop content and resources for rangatahi made by rangatahi. As 2021 continues, you’ll see insights into what they have been doing.

Education support

102 requests for support from 81 schools

Netsafe Research Releases

Parent awareness of children’s online lives

Parental awareness of children’s experiences of online risks and harm shares insights into parents’, caregivers’ and whānau perceptions of children’s experiences of online risk and harm. It is the first report of its kind focused on children and their parents in Aotearoa and joins an international body of work. The research identified:

  • Nineteen percent of parents were aware their child had been bothered or upset by something online in the last 12 months whereas 25 percent of children aged between 9 and 17 years said that this happened to them.
  • Only a quarter of parents thought their child could cope with upsetting internet experiences, although the findings reveal parental awareness about the emotional impact their child has is consistent with their child’s experiences.
  • There is not a significant difference between parents’ knowledge of their children being treated in a nasty way online and their child treating someone else in a hurtful way. Parents of girls (19 percent) were more likely to report their child was treated in a harmful way online compared to parents of boys (15 percent), and Māori parents also reported a higher rate (22 percent).
  • Parents were unaware about their children meeting a person face-to-face that they first knew online (26 percent of parents versus 38 percent of children). Parents of boys (29 percent) reported a higher occurrence of their child interacting online with people they don’t know.
  • It is more common for parents of boys (23 percent) and Pacific parents (33 percent) to report that their child had been exposed to gory or violent images. Parents of girls (16 percent) and children under 15 (18 percent) reported higher rates of exposure to hateful content online. Awareness of exposure to drug taking was higher among parents of girls (13 percent), children aged 15-17 (15 percent) and Māori and Pacific parents (both 15 percent).
  • Parents of adolescents aged 13-17 seem to underestimate their children’s exposure to potentially harmful online content to things such as violent images, hate speech, self-harm, drug taking.
  • Nearly half of the parents surveyed believe they have the skills to help their child deal with risks and harm online. Parents of girls and children under 13 were more likely to feel confident, whereas Asian parents felt less confident in their abilities to support their child.

Read the full report here

The impact of COVID-19 Lockdown on peoples experiences of unwanted digital communications

Netsafe conducted a nationwide study to understand the prevalence of unwanted digital communications in New Zealand during the nationwide COVID-19 Lockdown.

As the Lockdown got underway, the number of reports about harmful digital communications that Netsafe’s call centre received began to increase, with this trend continuing after the Lockdown period, Netsafe wanted to find out more.

This study explores the experiences of unwanted digital communication in the last 12 months, just before, during, and after Lockdown.

  • Of participants who reported being a victim to at least one unwanted digital communication during the last year, 41 percent said it occurred during and/or after Lockdown.
  • Males (46 percent), those aged between 40 and 49 (59 percent) and New Zealand Europeans (44 percent), were most likely to have suffered.
  • Around six in ten people with long-term disabilities who received unwanted digital communications, did so during and/or after the Lockdown period.
  • Categories which attracted the largest numbers of online harm during and/or after Lockdown included encouraging people to hurt or kill themselves (65 percent), sharing intimate images or recordings without permission (65 percent), sharing violent or sexual content considered indecent or obscene (55 percent) and offensive comments about religious or political beliefs (54 percent).

About Netsafe

Netsafe is an independent non-profit organisation with an unrelenting focus on online safety. We keep people safe online by providing free support, advice and education. Visit for useful resources or call 0508 638 723 seven days a week for help with an online incident.

Find out more at


Netsafe is incorporated as a society and a charity. Our members represent a variety of backgrounds and countries, but all have one thing in common – an interest in keeping people safe online. Membership is free and easy to apply for. Find out more about being a Netsafe member or apply by completing our online form.

Find out more about being a Netsafe member, or apply to join today by completing our online form.


The data in this report represents the data available at the end of the quarter. Information related to the reports made to Netsafe reflect high-level trends and does not include easily identifiable information about specific reports/incidents.

If you have any queries about the information in this report, please email [email protected]