Many Kiwis falling to cyber scammers

More than one in 10 Kiwis have been touched by cyber crime, from dodgy online trades to credit card theft, a university study shows.

The Victoria University study shows most New Zealanders are engaging online but not without a few unpleasant digital run-ins.

Of 467 people surveyed, about 17 per cent had photographs of themselves uploaded without their permission in the past 12 months.

Another 14 per cent had found malicious software on their computers, while 12 per cent had bought something online that had been "misrepresented".

People's age, ethnicity and education also had a big impact on their digital misadventures. Those over 45 were much more likely to unwittingly infect their computers with malicious software or have their credit card details stolen, though that was still rare.

Those under 35 were more likely to be caught out in dodgy online purchases.

People of an Asian ethnicity were most likely to have their computers hacked, while about one in three Maori surveyed had been misled over buying something online.

People with less education were likely to fall for scams and be less careful with their personal information.

Trade Me head of trust and safety Jon Duffy said it received about 65 complaints a week on "misrepresentation", or roughly one in every 4000 trades.

Dodgy trades were far more common on platforms without the ability to leave feedback, he said. "The reason the number is so low [on Trade Me] is that a buyer is able to view all of a seller's feedback in advance, and the seller is strongly motivated to not have negative feedback lodged."

The study was funded by the Department of Internal Affairs, which is managing the move towards e-government, and undertaken by Professor Miriam Lips, of the School of Government at Victoria University.

Prof Lips said the study was the first thorough look at Kiwis' internet habits. While it showed plenty of people ran into problems online, overall they were far less likely to be targeted with scams, credit card theft, or malicious software than overseas internet users.

That could be because, being a small country, New Zealand was rarely an international cyber-crime target. But it could also be because Kiwis were unusually cautious online.

Compared with overseas studies, Kiwis were often going to great lengths to avoid disclosing personal details online. Only one in 20 surveyed had no virus protection and as many as one in five used pseudonyms online to protect their identities.

But Netsafe executive director Martin Cocker said even a small portion of internet users not protecting themselves was enough for cyber criminals.

Email scams, particularly appeals for money, were sent to tens of thousands of people and needed only a small return rate to make a profit.


Cyber-bullying is a growing problem, expanding beyond the school yard into broader society, MPs have been told.

Hellen Swales, of the Federation of Business and Professional Women, told a select committee yesterday the online reach of cyber-bullying was phenomenal.

"The problem crosses all ages."

Online bullying was more widespread because of its anonymous nature, encouraging people who would never confront their victims face to face, she said.

Jean Fuller, of the National Council of Women, said there needed to be more education about online safety from a young age.

The committee is hearing submissions on the Harmful Digital Communication Bill, which creates new criminal offences for sharing harmful information and inciting suicide online. It will also create a regulator to hear complaints and to order offending material to be removed. Most submissions have been supportive, although some have raised objections about unreasonable restrictions on the freedom of speech.


95 per cent use the internet

87 per cent have bought something online

68 per cent have interacted with the Government online

87 per cent try to disclose "minimal information" online

17 per cent have had a photograph of themselves shared without their permission

Banks are the most trusted online sites, while gambling sites are the least trusted

Source: Victoria University. Responses are for the past 12 months.

The Dominion Post