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5% of Kiwis experienced identity theft in 2021 - report

By Ryan Morris-Reade
Tue 15 Mar 2022

Norton has found that 5% of New Zealanders experienced identity theft in 2021, and 10% have clicked on a fraudulent package notification link in the past 12 months.

The continued shift from in-person to virtual has provided fertile ground for cybercriminals over the past year, with 33% of New Zealanders surveyed by Norton reported having experienced cybercrime in the past 12 months. 

"As a result of the pandemic, we continue to connect to the internet for everything from work and school to entertainment, social connection and shopping, yet cybercriminals have taken advantage of this to launch consumer attacks and convincing scams," the company says.  

The 2022 Norton Cyber Safety Insights Report was conducted online in partnership with The Harris Poll. Over 10,000 adults in ten countries, including 1,000 adults in New Zealand, revealed that cybercrime victims spent an average of 4.8 hours trying to resolve their issues, with an average loss of $135 as a result.  

According to the report, the most common cybercrime New Zealanders have experienced was detecting unauthorised access to an online account (37%). Nearly one-third of those surveyed (31%) report detecting malicious software such as spyware, ransomware, viruses, worms, Trojan horses and adware. And these were seen on computers, Wi-Fi networks, smartphones, tablets, smart homes, or other connected devices.  

"The fact that one-third of Kiwis surveyed have experienced cybercrime in the past year shows that cybercriminals are increasingly taking advantage of our heightened digital footprint," says NortonLifeLock senior director, Asia Pacific, Mark Gorrie.

"As we face an ongoing pandemic with work and school oscillating between in-person and online, both companies and individuals will have a continued responsibility to ensure the proper protections are in place to defend themselves against cybercriminals."

Identity theft 

The report found that one in five New Zealand adults surveyed (21%) say they have experienced identity theft, compared with 16% in 2020 and 5% impacted in the past year alone, which is over 193,000 Kiwis. 

Of those who experienced identity theft, 43% discovered the theft themselves, most commonly by monitoring their financial accounts online (18%). More than one in three were notified about their identity theft by an external source (36%), with more than one in five (21%) saying they were notified by their bank or credit card company.  

The majority of identity theft victims (95%) have experienced some impact, such as freezing their credit cards (47%), time spent resolving the issues created (33%), or having money stolen (29%). 

The survey found that younger New Zealanders are more likely to be caught off-guard if faced with identity theft, stating that they've never considered that their identity could be stolen.

"Younger Kiwis may feel more invincible because they are more tech-savvy," says Gorrie. "However, the fact is cybercriminals do not distinguish between victim's ages and will launch attacks whenever they spot vulnerabilities in anything from easy-to-guess login credentials, unsecured online connections, or devices which are not updated to patch security flaws." 

Data privacy 

Most New Zealanders surveyed are concerned about data privacy (82%) and want to do more to protect their data (84%). With 70% taking steps to hide their online footprint.

The most common steps are changing the default privacy settings on devices, for example, changing location permission on an app, limiting ad tracking (34% of respondents) and enabling multifactor authentication (34%). For some, these precautions extend beyond protecting their own information, with 45% of parents saying they have used online parental controls on children's accounts or devices.  

Viruses, hacks and scams 

Despite efforts to protect themselves online, many still fall victim to online viruses, privacy breaches and scams. Nearly half of New Zealanders (49%) report they have personally experienced a computer or mobile device virus, with 20% saying they have experienced this multiple times. Nearly two in five have personally experienced a phishing scam (39%), and 28% have experienced a social media hack, or email hacking (22%).  

Of those surveyed, 10% report having fallen victim to a shipping-related scam in the past 12 months, such as clicking on a fraudulent package notification link.    

"It's so important to maintain good digital hygiene - keep your devices updated with the latest operating system, use strong passwords combined with multifactor authentication and use comprehensive security to help keep your devices and data safe," says Gorrie.

"Also, don't grant apps broad permissions, only let them access what they need to function. Broad permissions could lead to malware being able to perform unwanted tasks and spread further, so make sure you remain vigilant, so you can enjoy the best of the digital world to stay connected to friends and family."

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