Netsafe Quarterly Report October – December 2021

CEO Update

Kia ora, 

Welcome to the Q2 quarterly report. 

The last months of 2021 were extraordinary in many respects, as New Zealand experienced a nationwide lockdown like no other. Like most people in the country, our predominantly Auckland-based team spent 15 weeks working from home, juggling child-care, home learning, work and family responsibilities in the middle of a pandemic. I couldn’t be prouder of the team, and in particular, the way they responded to high volumes of reports in the midst of extremely challenging circumstances. 

Netsafe has experienced a significant increase in reports to our helpline each time COVID restrictions have been implemented, and this lockdown was no different. 

We received 8,048 reports in Q2, an increase of 32.8 percent over the same quarter last year. Reports received covered the full gamut of the incident spectrum, including abuse, harassment or threats, non-consensual sharing of intimate images, grooming, inappropriate content, scams, privacy, misinformation and disinformation, and everything in between. 

Quarter 2 was Netsafe’s second busiest quarter ever in terms of HDC reports, with the preceding quarter, Q1, being the busiest ever. We received 1,189 HDC reports, an increase of 36.8 percent over the same quarter the previous year. In spite of these challenges, I’m delighted to say that our team managed to maintain extremely high levels of satisfaction. 

Q2 also saw a changing of the guard, as Martin Cocker stepped down as CEO to pursue other opportunities. We thank him for his 15 years of service and wish him well in his new endeavours. 

The Netsafe Board is progressing a recruitment process for a new CEO. While that takes place, we will continue to meet any challenges the pandemic throws our way, work closely with our partners in the online safety sector, and provide informed, independent support for people in Aotearoa New Zealand whenever they need it.   

Ngā mihi, 

Andrea Leask 

Interim CEO, Netsafe 

Andrea Leask

Report Contents

Senior Leadership Team Update

Andrea Leask, Interim CEO, Netsafe

In November 2021, a change for the top of Netsafe occurred with Martin Cocker stepping down as CEO after 15 years of leadership. 

Martin’s tenure as CEO ended on a high, where he oversaw Netsafe’s recent reappointment under the Harmful Digital Communications Act (HDCA) for another five years. Netsafe’s achievements under his leadership have been considerable, with the organisation being five times larger in 2021 than when he joined. During his term as CEO, Netsafe has provided support, education and advice to New Zealand internet users of all ages. It has launched innovative products and services, coordinated awareness events, and helped resolve hundreds of thousands of online safety incidents. 

The past quarter was extraordinary in many respects as we continued to see the disruption, influence, and importance of digital technology in keeping people connected while navigating the impacts of a global pandemic.  

The majority of the Netsafe team is Auckland-based, which means most of the quarter was spent in lockdown, working from home. We’re very proud of our team, who did an outstanding job of maintaining service continuity and high rates of customer satisfaction, whilst juggling the challenges of lockdown.   

As an iconic Kiwi organisation we continue to take our leadership role in developing world-class online safety knowledge and response seriously. Our purpose: to enable people to access digital opportunities confidently and reduce harm has never been more pertinent than it is in the context of Covid-19 restrictions and lockdowns.

Andrea Leask

Quarterly Results

Between October and December 2021, Netsafe received 8,048 reports overall which is a 6.3 percent increase compared to the last quarter. Netsafe experienced a 8.8 percent decrease in personal harm reports, a 11.8 percent increase in scam reports and a 3.3 percent increase in other reports. 

TOTAL REPORTS (+6.3%*)

PERSONAL HARM REPORTS (-8.8%*)

SCAM & FRAUD REPORTS (+11.8%*)

OTHER REPORTS (+3.3%*)
*percentage change based on reports made to Netsafe when compared to the last quarter

Reports by age group

1.7%

00-12

6.8%

13-17

6.6%

18-21

 

39.7%

22-40

29.8%

41-64

15.4%

65+

 

Reports by region

Auckland: 43.6%
Bay of Plenty: 5%
Canterbury: 10.4%
Gisborne: 0.8%
Hawke's Bay: 2.7%
Manawatu-Wanganui: 3.8%
Marlborough: 0.6%
Nelson: 1.4%
Northland: 2.7%
Otago: 4%
Southland: 1.2%
Taranaki: 1.9%
Tasman: 0.5%
Waikato: 8.6%
Wellington: 12.1%
West Coast: 0.3%

Reports by gender

54.8%

FEMALE

 

5.4%

GENDER DIVERSE

39.8%

MALE

Personal Harm Reporting

Between October and December 2021, Netsafe received 1,189 personal harm reports. The top personal harm categories for the quarter were: 

Reported breaches under the Harmful Digital Communications Act*

Harassing/cyberbullying

False Allegations

Threatening, intimidating & menacing

 

Discloses sensitive personal facts

Grossly offensive to a reasonable person
* Cases often involve breaches of more than one communication principle

Scam and Fraud Reporting

The anatomy of scams reported to Netsafe this quarter showed a resurgence of the survey, prize, and delivery-based scams. Taking advantage of the stretched national supply chain, messages claiming to give details of packages, needing to re-confirm addresses or pay to release goods from holding processes, had many people confused and, in some cases, unfortunately willing to part with money and personal information. In some cases, unauthorised charges were later taken from bank accounts in the form of online subscriptions. As always, if you or anyone you know receives these kinds of messages, encourage them to check with the suppliers directly before taking any other action and regularly check your bank statements if you’ve responded to these messages. 

Two categories represent more than half of the total financial loss reported to Netsafe this quarter, scams involving relationships or trust (often romance scams) and investment fraud. These two seemingly different scam types are increasingly being reported together as scammers use friendship or romantic trust to engage individuals in fake investment schemes. These so called “Pig Butchering” scams are characterised by a romantic partner talking about the success of a particular investment scheme, often a through crypto currency trading platform, which they then encourage their target to invest in too. In many cases, while the trading site might show the size of the investment, and may show regular growth of the investment, when it comes to the point of withdrawing the capital, the scam is revealed, and the original investment is gone. 


Scam & fraud snapshot

$9.51M

REPORTED LOSSES

920

REPORTS WITH $ LOSSES

$10,336.74

AVERAGE LOSS

Top scam categories reported

Products & Services

Prize & Grant

Investment fraud

Relationship & trust

Identity fraud

Education & Engagement Services

Netsafe continues to stay committed to providing relevant, timely and useful information to help the community have more positive online experiences. In this quarter, public feedback was opened to the draft Aotearoa New Zealand Code of Practice for Online Safety and Harms, of which Netsafe has been leading the development of. The Code brings the industry together under a set of principles and commitments to provide a best practice self-regulatory framework aimed at enhancing the community’s safety and reducing harmful content online for everyone.    

We also published our Annual Report from 2020/2021, which covers a year when we recognised Netsafe’s 20th anniversary as an incorporated society – a period during which digital technology has become ever more integrated into our lives. We also worked alongside stakeholders, and shared our resources to ensure the community was getting useful information to stay safe. This included supporting various awareness weeks including Fraud Awareness Week and Cyber Smart Week, as well as creating easy-read versions of our resources, with the help of Spectrum Care NZ to be as accessible to all people, in time to recognise the International Day of People with Disabilities. 

Some highlights of the quarter included our work with Voices of Hope on their campaign, “You Wouldn’t Say It To Their Face”, highlighting mental health issues stemming from online abuse and bullying, and the impact it can have on someone’s wellbeing. We had three of our Youth Action Squad members join the korero and share their stories which we were proud to showcase. Another to note was the SCAM Gallery campaign, in collaboration with Meta (Facebook), NZ Police and CERTNZ which was created to explain some of the most common scams and tips to avoid them.  

Alongside our work with young people focused organisations, Netsafe, with the help of Network for Learning (N4L), also finalised the winners for our three young people competitions this quarter. The competitions showcased the creativity of young people in the forms of creating their own superhero, school mascots as well as making TikTok videos. This opportunity to engage authentically with young people was one we couldn’t pass up so we were pleased to receive so many high-quality entries from rangatahi on their versions of what a safer online world looks like. 

Highlights of the quarter included:  

Icon featuring 3 people watching screen

3

Webinars hosted online in collaboration with Google Education and NZ Classification Office

Icon of page with Spectrum Care logo in bottom right corner

4

Easy-read resources in partnership with Spectrum Care

 

Icon of Trophy with three stars beneath

Over 500

competition entries for Netsafety Week

Netsafe Team Spotlight

Alex, Online Safety Operations Centre Team Leader

Having spent 6 years working at Auckland Council and council-controlled organisations (CCOs), Alex joined Netsafe in October 2016 with the launch of the Approved Agency. Alex is on the front line helping the public to stay safe online and helps to manage our team of dedicated online safety consultants. He lends his name to our automated scam assistance bot – Ask Alex.  Alex moved from Seoul, South Korea to the Bay of Islands in 1995 and has been a proud Auckland resident for the last 20 years. 
Alex

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 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. 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.

REPORT DATA

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 outreach@netsafe.org.nz