60% of 16-24 year olds victims of online scams

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As time spent online has soared, online security provider McAfee has seen a huge surge in online scams. And it’s not just those less used to navigating their lives online who are falling victim to online criminals either.

Research conducted by cybersecurity specialist McAfee has revealed that digital natives are most likely to have experienced a scam, despite typically being seen as more savvy than older generations. This research coincides with the launch of McAfee’s latest consumer security portfolio.

The 2020 “scamdemic” 

Due to Covid-19, Brits have been doing more than ever from home – from work, to shopping, learning, and entertainment – and online criminals have been taking advantage of this. McAfee’s latest study reveals that over half (55%) of Brits who have experienced a scam or hack note that this took place within the last year.

Online criminals have been targeting unsuspecting consumers across all generations using a diverse range of tactics in a bid to gain access to personal and financial information. McAfee’s research has also revealed that Baby Boomers are in fact more diligent at avoiding scams, with six in 10 having never fallen victim to a scam and/or hack.

In comparison, over 60% of millennials and Gen Z collectively claim to have been scammed, revealing how despite being digital natives, Britain’s younger generations need to take more care when it comes to online security.  

When it comes to methods, online criminals have been targeting popular online activities such as shopping (46%) streaming (16%) and banking (15%), with the research revealing that Gen Zs are twice as likely to fall victim to an online banking scam in comparison with those aged over 55.

In contrast, over half (47%) of 55-65 year-olds who claim to have been scammed were targeted via email, demonstrating how online criminals are sticking to more traditional methods to reach older generations. 

Social media scams

As the most frequent users of the internet, it is no surprise that almost half (45%) of 16-24-year-olds encountered such scams on social media. But, where are the social media scam hotspots? Northern Ireland (49%) and London (46%) are the two UK regions that saw the most residents clicking on dodgy links when on social media. In contrast, residents of East Anglia are playing it safe, with three quarters claiming to have never been scammed or hacked on social media. 

What’s more, a significant 60% of dodgy links shared via social media were inadvertently shared by a friend or family member.

At a time where internet usage continues to increase, many Brits feel the pressure of staying up to date with the latest news and trends. Whilst traditional platforms such as TV (64%) remain the go-to news, over half (51%) of respondents said they search for news online, with a further 38% using social media to stay up-to-date. However, for Gen Z and Millennials however, social media is the favourite, with over half stating they use social media to keep up-to-date with the news. 

Not only do younger Brits use social media to access the news, but they are also more likely to use social media to log into third-party sites. In fact, 41% of millennials have used social media to do so, yet three in 10 rarely check their security settings on social platforms, increasing the risks of encountering an online scam. 

Oversharing generation

The risks associated with a hacker gaining access to social media accounts can fall down to how much personal information is being shared on the platform; and when it comes to over-sharing, millennials reign supreme. For example, three times as many 25-39 year-olds regularly share their location on social media when compared to those aged 55+. If this information gets into the wrong hands, it can be used to paint a detailed picture of someone and offers online criminals direct access into their lives.  

Worryingly, almost half of Brits have received a fake friend request on social media, which could potentially be a hacker trying to access a person’s social media account for personal gain. When it comes to accepting a friend request from a stranger, 16-24 year olds are twice as likely to do so in comparison to those 55 and over.  Additionally, many have received a direct message from a stranger (30%), encountered fake deals (20%) or clicked on a dodgy online survey (17%). 

7 tips on staying safe online:

Raj Samani, Chief Scientist and McAfee Fellow shares his top tips on how to stay safe online: 

  • Password safety. Use unique, complex passwords for all your accounts. You can use a password generator to help you create strong passwords and a password manager can help store them.  And, if the site offers multi-factor authentication, use it, and choose the highest privacy setting available.  
  • Lockdown privacy and security settings. Leaving your social media profiles on the ‘public’ setting means anyone who has access to the internet can view your posts and photos whether you want them to or not. While you should treat anything you post online as public, turning your profiles to private will give you more control over who can see your content and what people can tag you in. 
  • Don’t share your account logins to give others access. Be stringent when it comes to sharing logins. While it can be tempting to share passwords to streaming services and social media, your personal login should remain personal. ​ 
  • Avoid dodgy links. Whether shared on social media, via email or you are simply browsing the internet, avoid clicking on suspicious messages or URL links, even if they are posted or shared by someone you know. Always go directly to the source as opposed to clicking links or replying direct to messages. 
  • Read with caution. Given online criminals regularly track what is trending in popular culture, and hundreds of posts spreading misinformation about Covid-19 appearing across social media platforms, consumers are reminded to not trust everything they read and should remain cautious of online links shared on social media.  
  • Report, report, report. Flag any fraudulent posts or messages you encounter on social media to the respective platform, so they can help stop the threat from spreading further.  
  • Protect. Always use comprehensive security software that can keep you protected from the latest threats 
Chris Price
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