Unsafe or unwanted contact — signs to look out for

A stranger or someone you know can make you feel uncomfortable or unsafe. Here are some warning signs that something is not quite right.

Our research shows that one in four young people are being contacted by strangers online. Contact from a random stranger can be risky. But even online contact from someone you know can make you feel that something is not quite right.

Sometimes a person who contacts you online may want to harm you.

Signs to look out for

Some people who contact you genuinely just want to be friends or chat. The problem is that some others, both men and women, target young people online to scam you, to trick you into giving them nude or sexual pictures or videos, or to harm you in some other way.

The person contacting you online could be someone who is older, but it could also be someone close to your age. It might be a stranger, or it might be someone you know. It could start innocently, with someone being very friendly and helpful to make you trust them, before things get uncomfortable or risky.

Here are some warning signs

  • You feel that something is not right — trust your instincts.
  • Things don’t add up — their online profile doesn’t match what you see and hear when you talk or chat with them.
  • They tell you their webcam is broken — sometimes a person who wants to harm you pretends to be your own age and says their webcam is broken so you can’t see what they really look like.
  • They contact you a lot and in different ways — for example, you meet them on Instagram, then they switch platforms and start direct messaging you.
  • They ask you who else uses your computer or tablet — or even which room of your house you are in.
  • They ask you for favours and do things in return — people who want to harm you may even offer you money or followers, but then won’t deliver what they’ve promised.
  • They say they like your appearance or body — or ask very personal things like ‘have you ever been kissed’?
  • They insist on meeting — they may keep saying they want to see you in person and try to make you feel guilty or threaten you if you don’t agree.
  • They want to keep your relationship secret — people who want to harm you often try to keep their friendship with you extremely private from the beginning.

How to protect yourself from unwanted contact

Make your accounts private

By adjusting your privacy settings, you can stay in control of who sees what you post online and who can contact you directly.

For example, you can update your settings to only accept messages from people on your ‘friends’ list.

It’s also a good idea to check your location sharing options to make sure your location is only available to you or to specific friends.

If you want to know how to check what is public, see our advice on managing your digital reputation.

You could even sit down for 30 minutes and check all the privacy settings in your social media apps – it will be time well spent!

For more info on privacy settings see the eSafety Guide.

Delete contacts you don’t talk to

Go through all the people who are your online friends or who follow you on social media and check that you actually know them. If you don’t, it’s probably a good idea to delete them.

Bonus tip — when you get a notification that it’s someone’s birthday and you don’t know them well enough to say HBD on their profile, think about deleting them from your account.

Delete requests from strangers

When you get a friend or follow request from someone you don’t know, check if you have mutual friends. Remember, it’s easy for a person online to pretend to be someone they are not. If you’re unsure, delete the request.

How to deal with unwanted contact

If contact with a stranger, or with someone you know, makes you feel uncomfortable or unsafe, stop responding to the other person straight away.

In situations like this, it’s really important to talk to a trusted adult about what’s been happening.

Screenshot evidence

It’s best to take screenshots of anything that makes you feel uncomfortable.

Report and block

Once you have all your screenshots, you can report the other person directly to the platform and then block their account to prevent them sending you further messages. For more info see the eSafety Guide. It’s also a good idea to talk to a trusted adult about it.

Report to eSafety

If the contact continues, get help. You might be able to make a cyberbullying report to us, if you are under 18. If you are over 18, read our advice on adult cyber abuse.

Report to police

If you feel you are in immediate danger contact your local police, or in an emergency call triple 000.

If you feel you are in immediate danger contact your local police, or in an emergency call triple 000. Report contact that makes you feel unsafe or uncomfortable to the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation (ACCCE).

Get help and support

  • Kids Helpline — counselling and online support for kids and teenagers
  • eheadspace — online chat and support for young people (12 to 25)
  • 1800RESPECT — counselling and support for sexual abuse and domestic and family violence