Young Brits more likely to fall victim to online scams

Cybersecurity, Social Media

After a year that has seen many of us spend more time online than ever before, a new study from McAfee shows that while many Brits have become savvier when it comes to security, many of us are still taking unnecessary risks – and this is particularly true of the younger generation.

Over the course of the pandemic, many Brits embraced online banking, services, and retail for the first time. And while these platforms allowed us to go about our lives and remain connected with loved ones, being mindful of risk is something which we have all had to learn to adapt to, with more than a quarter (27%) of us having fallen victim to a scam over the last 12 months.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, as we have tried to stay connected to friends and family throughout lockdown, social media accounted for the biggest share of scams at 40%. And for that reason, the majority of Brits (52%) view this as the most risky activity when using online services, and of those people who have knowingly clicked on a harmful link, nearly a third (29%) have done so on social media. These scams are particularly common among millennials – nearly half of 25-44 year olds (48%) who have experienced a scam have done so via social media.

Adapting to digital lives

With more Brits pivoting to managing their lives digitally during the pandemic, it’s no surprise that retail (26%) and banking (27%) were the most common areas where Brits experienced scams. Utilities and services were also a popular target for scammers – 16% of those scammed fell victim to a fake TV licence or HMRC refund, while 13% were scammed while managing utilities online.

Improving our digital hygiene should be high priority for Brits – a quarter (25%) don’t check the source of a link shared by a friend or family member, while 18% would always trust links appearing to be from well-known businesses. As a result, over a fifth of us (22%) have knowingly clicked on a harmful link, exposing ourselves to malware being installed on our devices, with over a third (38%) claiming to have received a dodgy link via email, with 28% being exposed via SMS, and 23% on a messaging platform.

However, it’s not all bad news; Brits are becoming more security savvy. Encouragingly, nearly half (45%) use secure payment platforms such as PayPal and Apple Pay – rising to over 50% in the over 55s, while good password hygiene is on the up, with 39% using two-factor authentication, 31% using a secure password manager, and nearly a fifth (19%) using a random password generator, all of which can significantly reduce the risk of being targeted by bad actors. Research also shows that Brits are getting increasingly savvy about the dark web – over half (54%) are aware that this is a space where cybercriminals can share passwords or personal details – making good password safety that much more important.

Despite this, however, there are still some Brits participating in risky behaviour – 17% use the same password across all accounts (jumping to 31% amongst 18-24 year olds), with a further 20% sharing log-in details with their partner.

Across the country, Brits in the North-East are most security savvy, with only 14% having fallen victim to a scam, compared to those in London where 41% have experienced a scam in the last year.

Get security savvy

With a few simple steps, you can enjoy all aspects of your digital life worry-free. Antony Demetriades, VP Marketing at McAfee shares his top tips for staying 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. 
  • Lock down 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.
  • Protect. Always use comprehensive security software that can keep you protected from the latest threats



Chris Price
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