The national cybersafety organisation has recorded more than $1m lost to online scams during March and is seeing smartphones and tablets increasingly targeted.
Over the last month, NetSafe says New Zealanders have reported competition scams that arrive by text message and insist they install an app to enter, as well as ‘free’ apps that then charge credit cards a monthly subscription fee.
“We know children often spend more time online during the school holidays playing games and using apps so it’s important that families take steps to secure and safeguard those devices too,” says Chris Hails, NetSafe’s digital project manager.
“In 2014, we recorded $8m lost to a wide variety of online challenges,” says Hails. “This month people continue to lose money to investment and romance scams, suffer ransomware infections on their PCs and report widespread phishing attacks but it’s important to protect your mobile devices too.”
The physical loss of an expensive gadget is the most common concern for smartphone and tablet owners, NetSafe says. However, families also need to consider carefully what apps they and their children are downloading, the information they are sharing and any costs that could be incurred through in-app purchases or sneaky terms and conditions.
Protect your mobile devices
NetSafe offers the following advice for smartphone and tablet owners:
• Be cautious about what apps you install
Ask yourself “Is it wise to enter credit card details to get a free trial?” Stick with the official marketplaces to avoid installing malicious software and be cautious about what permissions are requested during the app installation process.
• Be alert to your device behaving oddly
Think twice before installing apps to enter a competition that is marketed by spam txt messages. Check your account regularly to see if text messages – especially to premium rate or overseas numbers – are being sent without you realising. High unexplained data usage may also signify a problem with an app you have installed.
• Keep your Android or iOS operating system up to date
Patching security vulnerabilities on smartphones and tablets helps protect them from malware threats. Using the latest operating system also gives you more options for setting up parental controls and preventing repeat in-app purchases.