It seems we're all still really bad at falling for online scams

A computer being guarded by cybersecurity.
(Image credit: iStock)

Despite technology now encompassing much of our everyday lives, a shockingly high number of Brits are still falling victim to online scams, new research has suggested.

A report from cybersecurity giant McAfee found that more than a quarter of Brits (27%) have fallen victim to a scam over the past 12 months, with younger users surprisingly more likely to be tricked than older people.

However there are promising signs that security is becoming an important part of our online lives, with more and more users ensuring they have tools such as two-factor authentication and password managers active.

Social media threat

McAfee's study, which surveyed around 2,000 Brits, found that social media has apparently become the most common breeding ground for online scams, with two-fifths (40%) of reported incidents happening on such sites.

Of those people who confessed to having knowingly clicked on a harmful link, nearly a third (29%) have done so on social media, with young people more susceptible, as nearly half of 25-44 year olds (48%) who have experienced a scam have done so via social media.

Elsewhere, retail and banking lures were found to be the most common for scams, with utilities and services also a popular target for scammers – with fake TV licence or HMRC refunds a commonly-used tactic.

Some of this pain appears to be self-inflicted, as a quarter (25%) of those surveyed by McAfee said they don’t check the source of a link shared by a friend or family member, while 18% said they would always trust links appearing to be from well-known businesses.

Overall, over a fifth (22%) have knowingly clicked on a harmful link, with over a third (38%) saying they received a dodgy link via email, 28% being exposed via SMS, and 23% via a messaging platform.

But there are some indications that security knowledge is increasing, as the survey found a wide range of safety tools are being used across the country.

It found over a third (39%) are using two-factor authentication, 31% use a secure password manager, and nearly a fifth (19%) usea random password generator, all of which can significantly reduce the risk of being targeted by bad actors. On the flip side, however, 17% confessed to using 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.

Mike Moore
Deputy Editor, TechRadar Pro

Mike Moore is Deputy Editor at TechRadar Pro. He has worked as a B2B and B2C tech journalist for nearly a decade, including at one of the UK's leading national newspapers and fellow Future title ITProPortal, and when he's not keeping track of all the latest enterprise and workplace trends, can most likely be found watching, following or taking part in some kind of sport.