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Latest figures show Kiwis lost $19 million to online fraud last year

As today marks global Safer Internet Day, Netsafe has released its reports for the last quarter, which reveal scamming activity cost New Zealanders about $19 million last year with a 23 per cent rise in internet fraud over the past quarter.

Cyber crime file image Source: istock.com

Incidents of online scams have been increasing, notably over periods the country was in lockdown, according to New Zealand's internet safety watchdog. 

CEO of Netsafe, Martin Cocker told 1 NEWS heavier internet users are more vulnerable to online harm.

“We had a big year under Covid conditions… anytime we went into lockdown, we got a rise in reporting,” he said.

But, Cocker says that as the country settles into Alert Level 1, “we expect to see a bit of settling back in those reports.”

Reflecting this trend are figures released today, which show personal harm reporting decreased by 23 per cent between October and December 2020, compared with the previous quarter.

However scam reports are “up and up and up,” says Cocker, by 23 per cent over the last quarter.

He says there is “nearly daily” sharing of reports to police but the majority of scammers work from offshore which makes cases difficult to prosecute.

“They come from offshore, all around the world – anywhere where law enforcement is ineffective or complicit.” Cocker says.

“The odd group does try from here but it’s pretty foolish."

With 3814 scam reports coming in between October and December, those most drawn in were between the ages of 22-64 and almost 58 per cent were female.

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Cocker said victims were not necessarily falling for dating scams.

“The most common by a volume is remote support-type scams. We are also seeing a rise in sexploitation – where porn-watching has been recorded and used against the victim.”

He says often, people don’t know they are in a scam until very late.

“For scams there’s a point where you are asked to hand over money or hand over financial details. That’s the point to stop and review what sort of information you are handing over online,” Cocker says.

He says people need to “make a habit” of reviewing what sort of information they are sharing.

Cocker says Netsafe has about 150 partners across New Zealand, from multi-nationals like Facebook and Google, to schools and NGOs joining in on Safer Internet Day.

He says as schools head back for 2021, he hopes there will be some work done to establish rules and agreements around online activity.