The country's online safety organisation is urging people to be alert to scams and seek advice for bullying after reports of abuse went up around the world as self-isolation numbers grow.

Netsafe is warning people to be vigilant to opportunistic scammers, fake news and possible online abuse as virtual connections become preferable to physical contact thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic.

"Reports from around the world indicate there has been an increase in abuse and harassment online due to Covid-19," Netsafe chief executive Martin Cocker said.

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There have already been reports of xenophobic abuse, breaches of the 10 communication
principles and social media pile-ons.

Cocker said anyone who was aware of such conduct should use Netsafe's free service for expert incident advice.

The Harmful Digital Communications Act says it is illegal for anyone to send or publish
threatening, offensive or sensitive material and spread damaging rumours.

Individuals can be punished by up to two years in prison or a maximum fine of up to $50,000.

"Our expectation is that Kiwis will be more supportive than abusive, but it is a good time to remind people of their rights and responsibilities under the Harmful Digital Communications Act."

Reports of coronavirus scams have also emerged this week.

While the scams differ in nature, they all have a common theme in that they are trying to obtain personal information and financial details, Cocker said.

Scammers are setting up fake websites selling items such as medical-grade masks, sending emails and texts purporting to be from the World Health Organisation and claiming to "cure" Covid-19 with teas and oils.


Cocker said everyone needed to check the emails and texts they received were from the official organisation purported to be the sender.

"Often these types of emails use a very similar domain name extension that is easy to be confused by."

Meanwhile, Netsafe is warning those wanting the most accurate health information about
Covid-19 to rely only on the Ministry of Health website rather than social media posts penned by people not qualified or responsible for distributing critical updates.