Despite spending more time than ever online, Brits are failing to take basic security steps, leaving themselves exposed to fraud. An online scams report found that younger people were more vulnerable than they think. Although 18 to 44-year-olds believed they were savvy and safe from online harm, 42% admitted having been scammed or at least having a close call.
The UK research by Rightly found that almost half of Brits (48%) have fallen victim to a scam or come close, with over a third (37%) losing money as a result. In London these figures are even more stark, with nearly two-thirds (64%) having experienced a scam or having come close.
Despite 70% of Brits feeling that they have taken adequate steps to protect themselves from scams, this research reveals that many are still leaving themselves vulnerable to exploitation from bad actors.
A large proportion of Brits are savvy when it comes to well-known measures such as not replying to emails that look suspicious (85%), being wary of pop-ups (81%), and using virus protection (73%), but there are other less well-publicised risks still taken by many.
Think before you connect says the online scams report
Less than a third of Brits (30%) regularly change their passwords, while only 45% are wary when it comes to connecting to free Wi-Fi. As the summer holiday season gets underway and travel returns to normal, many of us will take the opportunity to connect to public Wi-Fi in airports, hotels, and restaurants.
But with almost a quarter of the world’s public Wi-Fi using no encryption, this means that data sent and received while connected to this network could fall into the wrong hands, leaving personal and financial information at risk. Perhaps unsurprisingly given that they are most likely to experience online harm, only a third (35%) of 18-34 year-olds hesitate before using public WiFi, compared with 58% of 55-64 year-olds according to the online scams report.
The data broker plague
The study also revealed that 48% of Brits regularly opt out of third-party data use. Many businesses will encourage customers to opt into sharing their data with selected third parties. But ticking this box means consenting to private and personal information finding its way into the wrong hands. This personal data gets sold on to so-called data brokers who build a highly detailed profile of the individual. This data can be sold on multiple times to companies who will use it for highly-targeted marketing.
Even more concerningly, this personal information will often end up on the dark web where it can be exploited by fraudsters. Again, research revealed that the older generation is more savvy when it comes to sharing their data – 56% of over 65s always opt out, compared with just 39% of 18-34 year-olds. These results also vary by region, with those in the East Midlands most likely to opt out (57%) compared with East Anglia, where only 42% of people regularly opt out of sharing their data.
How the cookie crumbles
All web users will be familiar with the cookie pop-ups which appear when browsing websites. But despite their ubiquity, the online scams report found only 19% of Brits regularly reject these to avoid sharing personal information. While cookies are often used to improve the online experience, third-party cookies can be used by advertisers and analytics companies to track and sell user behaviour, contributing to the vast pool of data held by third parties
Top tips on protecting personal data
● If you are connecting to a public Wi-Fi network, consider using a VPN (virtual private network) app which will encrypt everything you send and receive over this network
● Change passwords regularly and ensure you use separate passwords for each account. Avoid passwords which contain personal details such as names of streets and pets
● Always opt out of sharing your data with third parties. As soon as you tick this box you relinquish control of who has access to your data and how they are using it