Quarter 3 was another busy one for the Netsafe team. Our 2nd busiest since we became the approved agency under the Harmful Digital Communications Act in 2016. We received a total of 1,297 personal harm reports, a 9 percent increase from the previous quarter, and an increase of 21 percent on the same time last year.
This quarter saw significant media attention on women in high profile roles experiencing misogynistic trolling via online channels. Netsafe continues to receive an increasing number of these incidents being reported, but is it because it is more common? Or because women are choosing not to ignore the behaviour, and instead take action to make it stop?
The eSafety Commission in Australia released new research, Women in the Spotlight: How online abuse impacts women in their working lives. It found:
- One in three women surveyed experienced online abuse in a work context. Rates of abuse were even higher for women with a public online or media profile, women with disability, those who identify as LGBTIQ+ and younger women.
- The women reported different types of behaviour including harassment, doxing and trolling. Most of the abuse happened on social media and many talked about the negative impact it had on their mental wellbeing and personal confidence.
- Many women took a backwards step professionally, avoided leadership positions and stopped discussing topics they felt were inflammatory as a result of the abuse. Women retreated from online spaces and lowered their public profiles because of online abuse.
If you, or someone close to you is experiencing online abuse, take screenshots of the abuse and contact the Netsafe team on: report an incident. If the abuse is serious or involves threats to your life, or someone else, you should contact the police.
If the harassment doesn’t stop, or you are not satisfied with the outcome, you can take civil action under the Harmful Digital Communications Act 2015. The court can order content to be removed, order the producer to stop posting harmful content, apologise and can award a fine of up to $5,000 or imprisonment for a term of up to 6 months.
If your troll is anonymous, the court can order the content host or an internet provider to release the identity of the troll to the court. The intent of “unmasking” was to provide the court with the right person to make the order against, rather than revealing their identity. This is exactly what Christchurch City Counsellor, Sara Templeton did, in response to online trolling by a Young Nats party member2.
In March, the Harmful Digital Communications (Unauthorised Posting of Intimate Visual Recording) Amendment Act 2022 came into force. Netsafe participated in shaping this legislation via the submission process, presenting at the Select Committee stage. This bill makes it an offence for a person, without reasonable excuse, to post an intimate visual recording or image of another person without the consent of the person who is the subject of the post; or is reckless as to whether the victim has consented to the post. It will be interesting to see how case law defines “reasonable excuse” and “reckless” over the coming months and years.
We have just welcomed the Netsafe new CEO, Brent Carey. Next quarter, you’ll be hearing from Brent about his plans to help the people of Aotearoa stay safe and have more positive experiences online
Interim CEO, Netsafe
Senior Leadership Team Update
Sean Lyons, Online Safety Operations Centre Manager
Despite a fall in the overall number of scams reported this quarter, Netsafe’s online safety operations centre has seen a continued flow of reports of online harm types that perennially appear in our report numbers. Of these, possibly one of the most insidious, are the trust and relationship frauds, often referred to as romance scams. While those who are not involved in online dating or romantic relationships might not feel the impact of these directly, it is worth noting that last year, the reports to Netsafe of these types of scams amounted to more than $4million of loss. That makes up a significant part of the total reported financial loss here at Netsafe, and we are only too aware that these numbers represent only a percentage of the total losses the New Zealanders suffer.
There is still a degree of shame and embarrassment associated with this type of fraudulent online behaviour, and we are aware that this leads to a significant degree of underreporting to ourselves and other agencies that support people in these matters. But it is worth remembering and worth talking to our whanau, friends and colleagues about just how difficult and complex these scams can be, and just how sophisticated the methods and mechanisms employed by scammers can be in this area. These are not flattering emails with requests for cash associated, the scams often do not reveal themselves until long into the establishment of a romantic relationship, and the request for money is increasingly seen in the format of invitations to “co-invest” with their partners in exciting cryptocurrency or NFT based schemes.
These are more than just simple confidence tricks, they are carefully engineered frauds designed to prey on people’s trust in our fellow humans, and our propensity to help those who need it most, and the more we talk about it, hopefully, the more we can help protect each other from pain and loss, both financial and emotional.
Between January and March 2022, Netsafe received 6,031 reports overall which is a 25.1% percent decrease compared to the last quarter. Netsafe experienced a 8.3 percent increase in personal harm reports, a 76.1 percent decrease in scam reports and a 4.6 percent increase in other reports.
TOTAL REPORTS (-25.1%*)
PERSONAL HARM REPORTS (+8.3%*)
SCAM & FRAUD REPORTS (-76.1%*)
OTHER REPORTS (+4.6%*)
*percentage change based on reports made to Netsafe when compared to the last quarter
Reports by age group
Reports by region
Reports by gender
Personal Harm Reporting
Between January and March 2022, Netsafe received 1,297 personal harm reports. The top personal harm categories for the quarter were:
Reported breaches under the Harmful Digital Communications Act*
Scam and Fraud Reporting
Scams that take advantage of remote working have continued to feature prominently this quarter. Bogus parcel delivery scams, tech support scams and phishing emails are among the most reported to Netsafe with reporting levels consistently high since the beginning of the year. Tech support scams and phishing scams are most impactful when targeting people working in an environment removed from their colleagues. It is a good reminder that we should continue to stay connected during times of change.
Similarly, reports of the fake sextortion email scam that claims to have recorded people accessing adult sites have seen increased levels of reporting compared to the same time last year. Scammers are likely taking advantage of the changing habits of people who are more regularly homebound.
Online shopping scams had been in decline for several months but this trend reversed during this quarter with reports indicating that this was due to increased challenges in sourcing products in person.
We have also seen a shift in the mode of payment preferred by scammers. Where in the past, payment was requested in the form of electronic gift cards, we have seen a gradual transition to harvesting credit card numbers that are used to register people with unwanted services that offer an affiliate bonus to the scammer.
Scam & fraud snapshot
REPORTS WITH $ LOSSES
Top scam categories reported
Education & Engagement Services
Netsafe led another successful Safer Internet Day campaign, attaining widespread support across Aotearoa’s many schools and organisations. Netsafe hosts the day on behalf of the country, and we continue to have a high number of supporters, with over 100 participating in this year’s campaign and a continued increase in people seeking self-help and expert advice afterwards. We were particularly happy to have so many new supporters join this global awareness campaign designed to promote a more positive time online.
Netsafe also continues to collaborate with Spectrum Care Ltd. on developing resources to accommodate to a wider audience, staying committed to our work on ensuring accessibility for all.
We have been busy connecting with schools and kura throughout the country and are in the process of revising Netsafe’s Review Tool to reflect the conversations and feedback we have received. A particular focus in working with young people has progressed, with many upcoming campaigns to support across different areas that they are affected by.
Netsafe Team Spotlight
Paula Wistrand, Acting Netsafe Education and Schools Team Manager
Paula started her career with the New Zealand Police in the 111 communication centre in Auckland and moved into teaching after becoming a mum. Her teaching career took her from Maungaturoto, Northland to Dubai and Shanghai. In 2018 Paula returned to NZ and made Ōtautahi
Christchurch her home. After three years working for the Ministry of Education she took on the role as Education Advisor for Netsafe in 2021. Knowing the impact of online harm Paula is enjoying the opportunities that her mahi gives her to provide education to schools, kura and their communities to keep rangatahi safe online.
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 netsafe.org.nz for useful resources or call 0508 638 723 seven days a week for help with an online incident.
Find out more at www.netsafe.org.nz
Become a Netsafe member
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.
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]