Half of Brits duped by scam message in last year thanks to AI, study reveals

Artificial Intelligence, News

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is bombarding Brits with an onslaught of scam messages, a new study by antivirus company McAfee reveals.

As cybercriminals capitalise on AI to generate increasingly realistic cons, Brits are now wasting over a week every year deciphering scam messages from real, according to McAfee’s Global Scam Message Study.

The research reveals that people in the UK receive an average of seven fake messages or scams each day – and, worryingly, half (49%) of Brits have clicked on or fallen for a scam in the past year. Nearly a third (31%) of those who fell for a fake message lost money as a result, including nearly 1 in 5 Brits (18%) losing more than £100.

It seems AI is to blame. Indeed, half (49%) of survey respondents think it has become harder to identify scam messages, attributing this trend to hackers using AI to make their scams more believable.

Two in 5 consumers (41%) have noticed that scam messages no longer have typos or errors, and a similar number (38%) say that scam messages are harder to identify because they are often very personal.

Royal Mail text scam

In response, McAfee has released a list of the five most believable scam messages to watch out for, based on the top cons Brits have fallen for:

  • Fake missed delivery, or delivery problem, notification (36%)
  • “You’ve won a prize!” (34%)
  • Alert message claiming to be from the recipient’s bank (27%)
  • Information about a purchase the recipient didn’t make (24%)
  • Sign in and location verification messages (22%)

While over one-third (37%) of people aren’t confident they’re doing the right things to protect themselves online, nearly half of people (48%) would trust in AI-driven tools to fight back against the fraudsters.

“It is a sign of the times we’re living in, that people are spending the equivalent of a full work week each year just deciphering whether scam messages are real or not,” says Vonny Gamot, Head of EMEA at McAfee. “With the advancements in AI, scam messages are more convincing than ever – in fact, the majority of Brits believe it is easier to solve the Rubik’s cube than it is to tell real from fake messages.”

“So that Brits can continue to protect their privacy, identity, and personal information in the age of AI, you really need AI in your back pocket to help shield you from the latest threats. Unfortunately, seeing is no longer believing and we need to rely on both human intelligence and AI to help detect and block scam messages in real time.”

For people struggling to tell real messages from fake, Vonny Gamot has shared advice on how people can best protect themselves:

  • Think before you click. Cybercriminals use phishing emails or fake sites to lure people into clicking links that could lead to malware. If you receive an email asking you to click on a link, even if it’s a great-sounding deal or indicates it’ll provide useful information, it’s best to avoid interacting with the message altogether. Always go direct to the source and interact with reputable companies.
  • Remember that if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Many scams are effective because the scammer creates a false sense of urgency or preys on a heightened emotional state. Pause before you rush to interact with any message that is threatening or urgent, especially if it is from an unknown or unlikely sender.
  • Use AI to beat AI. From blocking dangerous links that appear on text messages, social media, or web browsers, people across all platforms should take advantage of AI-driven technology to engage with text messages, read emails, and browse the web peacefully and securely.”


Chris Price
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