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Unwanted or unsafe contact

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If a stranger or someone you know has contacted you and it’s made you feel uncomfortable or harassed there are ways you can manage the situation and keep yourself safe.

On this page:

What is unwanted or unsafe contact?

Unwanted contact is any type of online communication that makes you feel uncomfortable, unsafe or harassed. It can be with a stranger or someone you know. Unwanted contact can include:

  • being asked inappropriate or personal questions
  • being sent upsetting or offensive content
  • being asked to send intimate images or do things online that make you feel uncomfortable
  • being repeatedly contacted by someone even though you have asked them to stop.

You may actually welcome the contact at first, until the other person says or does something you don't like.

There are different ways someone can contact you and make you feel uncomfortable or unsafe. They include the following scenarios.

Sexual grooming

This is when a sexual predator tricks someone under 18 into thinking they’re in a close relationship, so they feel OK about sending nudes or getting sexual in a live chat. Usually they’re an older person (often known as a ‘paedophile’) who plans to share the content with other sexual predators. Sometimes they pretend to be the same age and have the same interests as the child or young person, or they use flattery, gifts or promises to trick them.

Grooming can lead to child sexual abuse. Any sexual activity between a child and an adult is child sexual abuse. Sexual activity may be sexual intercourse, sexual touching or sexual acts that happen in person or online. It may involve coercion, force or implied force. Online child sexual abuse is any form of sexual abuse of a child under 18 that has a link to the online environment. Find out more about child sexual abuse online.

If you're under 18, the best way to get help is to report the unwanted contact to the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation (ACCCE).

Hooking you with a fake profile

This is when someone makes a fake profile and pretends to be someone they’re not, so they can scam you. Sometimes this is called ‘catfishing’.

This person usually sends a direct message to you with a ‘sexy pic’ they claim is of them, then they might ask you to send a naked selfie or join a ‘sexy chat’. Next, they threaten to share the nude or recording of you with your friends, family or co-workers unless you pay them. This is a type of blackmail called sexual extortion or ‘sextortion’. 

Cyberstalking 

This is when a person keeps track of you online in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable, worried or threatened. They make repeated unwanted contact with you with calls, texts, emails or direct messages, and might even find you on different online platforms, so they make you feel like you can’t ‘hide’ from them. Find out more about cyberstalking.

‘Dick pics’ and other unwanted nudes

This is when you receive an unwelcome message, text, Airdrop, Nearby Share or email with an intimate image or video of the sender or of someone else. It can show a male, female or transgender body. This is sometimes called 'cyberflashing'.

It can feel creepy or upsetting to receive unwanted nudes because it makes the interaction between the sender and you sexual without your consent. This is a form of sexual harassment.

What can I do to stop unwanted or unsafe contact?

If online contact with someone makes you feel uncomfortable, unsafe or harassed, stop responding to them.

1. Collect evidence

Keep any evidence you have of contact that has made you feel unsafe, uncomfortable or harassed, including:

  • what platform or service the person used to contact you 
  • their username, handle or platform ID
  • the dates and times when they contacted you. 

Screenshots of their messages can be useful if it becomes necessary to report them. But don’t screenshot nude or sexual images or videos of anyone who’s under 18 years old, as saving it can be illegal.

You can find out more on our page about collecting evidence.

2. Report the unwanted contact

Once you have collected evidence, you can report the unwanted contact directly to the online platform or service used to contact you. For more information see The eSafety Guide.

Most phone and email providers also offer advice about how to deal with communication that’s unwanted, obscene, abusive or intended to harm you – you can try these links:

If the unwanted contact continues or becomes harmful, and you don’t hear back from the online service or platform, you may be able to make a cyberbullying report to eSafety if you are under 18, or an adult cyber abuse report if you’re 18 or older.

If you’re sent content showing or encouraging child sexual abuse or other forms of extreme violence or self-harm, you can also report this illegal content to eSafety. You can make the reports anonymously, without giving your name or contact details.

If someone shares, or threatens to share, an intimate image or video of you without your consent, it’s called image-based abuse (sometimes known as ‘revenge porn’). It’s not your fault and you’re not alone. Find out more about how to deal with image-based abuse.

 

If you’re being blackmailed, don’t pay or give the blackmailer more money or intimate content. Stop all contact with them and follow eSafety’s advice on how to deal with sexual extortion.

 

If you're under 18, the best way to get help is to report unwanted contact to the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation (ACCCE).

3. Stop further contact and tighten security 

  • Stop all contact with the person who has made you feel uncomfortable, unsafe or harassed.
  • Use in-app functions or your device settings to ignore, hide or mute the other person’s posts or comments. After collecting evidence you can also block them, to take away their power to harass you. 
  • Update your account and device privacy settings, to limit who can contact you. Make sure people can only Airdrop and Nearby Share with you if you agree.

The eSafety Guide has advice on key online safety functions for many online services, including social media, online games and other apps.

4. Get more help

What you’re going through is not easy, so talking about it with someone you trust may be helpful. Or you can contact a confidential counselling and support service, especially if you’re feeling anxious or depressed. 

Stay safe

Emergency help in Australia, any time of the day or night

If your life or safety is at risk and you need urgent help call Triple Zero (000).

 

If you’re having thoughts about suicide or self-harm call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467.

Tips for reducing the risk

Adjusting the privacy settings on your accounts and devices helps you stay in control of who can contact you directly, and who can see what you’re doing and where you’re going.

You can change your account settings to mute, hide or block unwanted contact. Check The eSafety Guide for links to common platforms and services. Change the privacy settings on your device to make sure people can only AirDrop or Nearby Share with you if you agree. You can also block people and download apps that restrict incoming calls and messages. 

It’s also a good idea to check your location sharing options to make sure only specific friends can see where you are.

If you want to know how to check what information about you is public, see our advice on managing your digital footprint – the page is written for young people, but the tips are useful for people of every age.

You can also find more advice in our pages on identity theft and how to manage your device safety settings

More information

This page offers general advice for adult audiences. Tailored information is also available for kidsyoung peopleparents and anyone experiencing unwanted contact as part of domestic and family violence. There is also advice for sport communities in our Sports hub.

Last updated: 14/03/2024