New Zealanders have lost more than $5 million to online scams and fraud this quarter — more than any other this financial year, according to online safety helpline Netsafe.
Netsafe received 5295 reports over a variety of online harm incidents — including bullying, abuse, objectionable content and scams —between January and March this year, according to its quarterly report.
While the data showed a nearly 25 per cent decrease in overall scam reports in the past quarter, it saw a 21.3 per cent increase in the amount lost to scammers, with more than $5.3 million reported.
The average loss was $6467.22 — a more than 50 per cent increase.
“Nearly $15 million has been reported as lost to scammers this year, which is an alarming trend,” Netsafe CEO Martin Cocker said today.
Approximately $19 million was reported in the last financial year.
The most reported category related to relationship and trust fraud, followed by consumer investment fraud. The average loss for a romance scam was $28,752.32.
“We know the number of losses reported to Netsafe represent only a fraction of the money lost. Sometimes people can be embarrassed to seek help, or they simply don’t know where to go for support which can add to the harm they experience,” Cocker said.
The organisation also saw a 21.9 per cent increase in personal harm reports related to bullying, image-based sexual abuse, harassment and hate speech.
Cocker said the rise in personal harm reports reinforce a trend the organisation began seeing during last year’s lockdown, with levels remaining consistently higher than any other year in Netsafe’s 20-year history.
He said the organisation provides support for people dealing with similar incidents under the Harmful Digital Communications Act, which makes it illegal to send or publish threatening, offensive or sensitive material or spread damaging rumours. Individuals can be punished by up to two years in prison or a maximum fine of $50,000.
“Our team never act on or behalf of anyone involved in a report as work to mediate the incident and try to minimise the harm.”