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How protected are migrants and refugees from cybercrime in Aotearoa?
Wed, 31st Aug 2022
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Recent research has found that more than 35% of Kiwis are affected by scams weekly, so do migrants and refugees have equitable access to tools that will help protect them online?

According to Avast, scams are at an all-time high in New Zealand, with an average of 3 out of 5 people experiencing an increase in attempted scams in the last year.

While email has traditionally been the preferred method of carrying out these acts, scammers have pivoted their tactics to include a range of communication methods.

Email is still the most popular at 85%, followed by text messages and phone calls, each at 60%, social media at 39% and messaging services at 38%.

Further, Avast's research found that 89% of Kiwis think they would be able to identify a scam, with 68% confident they wouldn't fall for one.

However, many New Zealanders feel that scams are becoming harder to recognise, with three main reasons behind this belief: 79% think it is because scammers have access to more advanced technology, 75% believe it is because of the breadth and depth of the personal information scammers can gain access to, and 71% think it is because some people share too much information online, resulting in certain individuals becoming more likely targets for cyber criminals.

Research from CERT NZ released this month indicates different findings, showing that it responded to 2,001 incidents in the second quarter (Q2) of 2022, a decrease of 14% from Q1 2022.

Moreover, reports of scams and fraud to CERT NZ are down by 6.9% this quarter.

CERT NZ also reports an increase in scam calls, in particular affecting bank customers.

These calls targeted customers and involved scammers masquerading as their bank, attempting to fool them into sharing financial information, providing them access to bank accounts or affording them remote access to their mobile devices or computers.

The process involves attackers using intermediary software that creates signals to change the displayed caller ID and implementing social engineering strategies to coerce the victim into disclosing their personal information.

It also involves scammers attempting to seem more authentic by using scripts and dialogue that sounds the same as customers would expect to hear if they were, in fact, speaking to someone in a bank call centre.

Digital government is an online resource containing “information, tools and guidance to support digital transformation across the public sector.

Further, the website is “built on evidence-based insights, user research and web metrics.

Digital government conducted research on digital inclusion for migrants and refugees who speak English as a second language in 2021.

The user experience report was part of a series of user insights reports commissioned by Te Tari Taiwhenua Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) and is intended to shed light on the lived experiences of digitally excluded communities.

Digital government's research found that the most significant area of distrust for migrants and former refugees is concern around personal information being “tracked, trapped and collected for unrelated purposes.

This includes credit card and bank account information and Digital government notes this makes it difficult for members of this community to carry out important online transactions such as online shopping, online baking and online payments for vital services.

Belong Aotearoa is an Auckland-based charity operating nationwide and set up to assist refugees, migrants and other newcomers to New Zealand in settling into a new life in our country.

According to its website, the charity's vision is for “an inclusive, connected New Zealand where newcomer communities are able to enjoy and contribute towards our collective wellbeing and prosperity.

Belong Aotearoa's work includes working with organisations, employers and government to foster equitable access and an inclusive environment.

Further, the charity shares its learnings and acts as a platform to amplify the lived experience of migrant and refugee communities.

Through this work, it intends to shift the way people think and act toward refugees and migrants by changing the narrative around these communities and, in turn, instilling long-lasting policy change, funding and practices.

Although Belong Aotearoa's work is not specifically focused on cybercrime and ensuring people are safe in the online world, it does acknowledge the importance of digital inclusion as a means to help newcomers feel connected.

“Digital inclusion is important to our communities as our communities exist both on and offline,” a spokesperson for Belong Aotearoa says.

“We know online spaces often reflect and sometimes amplify the challenges experienced offline [in regard] to [accessing] information, support and other resources.

Previous experiences with cybercrimes such as online fraud, scams and hacks, whether directly or indirectly affected, also sow distrust in engaging online.

In addition, the research found that social media, government websites, channels and familiar brands such as banks, telecom and news outlets are the most trusted sources of information for migrants and former refugees in Aotearoa.

However, the spokesperson for Belong Aotearoa notes that important websites can often be a challenge to get around for these communities.

“Sometimes essential websites for our communities, particularly government ones, are the hardest to navigate. We know this gives room for misinformation and confusion, which can have varying harmful impacts on our community,” the spokesperson says.

“We know from our broader research, existing work and also our learnings from lockdowns, that our communities are digitally excluded not just logistically and practically, with not having equipment and internet, but there was also a gap once set up, around skills to navigate online, which could potentially put them at risk of cybercrime.

There are a range of organisations and databases set up to support businesses and individuals in the online world throughout Aotearoa, such as CERT NZ and Digital government, as well as Netsafe.

What is clear is that while scammers may continue to target our most vulnerable, ensuring these communities are supported by their loved ones, peers and colleagues is crucial to maintaining their trust in digital communications and overall wellbeing in Aotearoa.

“With any initiative to address inclusion, we need to have the voices of those most impacted involved, to help shape solutions,” Belong Aotearoa's spokesperson says.