U.K. consumers unaware of online scams

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Nearly one in three U.K. consumers are unaware of phishing emails and other scams, according to a new study.

The research, carried out by the U.K. government backed internet campaign Get Safe Online, found that 29 percent of people are not aware, or aware but unsure of protective measures, that criminals can send out emails pretending to be legitimate companies in a bid to lure people to a fraudulent website with an attractive and realistic looking email offer.

Despite the fact that two-thirds (66 percent) of respondents have been confronted with a suspicious email or website, and over one-third (39 percent) have received false emails asking for banking details or advising them of a lottery win or inheritance.

The research also found that almost half (45 percent) of people would not automatically delete an unusual or unfamiliar email, despite the increase in scamming online and a recorded 5.7 billion phishing emails sent each month, according to figures from the Anti-Phishing Working Group.

Over a quarter (28 percent) of people felt that reading the email carefully and trusting their instincts is an acceptable measure to avoid being a victim of online fraud, and 24 percent felt that simply asking a friend for advice would be sufficient.

Expert said that consumers were “still treading in unfamiliar territory when it comes to recognizing scams online."

“Most online users are not that technically sophisticated, and so are usually unaware of what to look out for, said Donna Dawson, a behavioral psychologist at the University of London “Even when they are aware to some degree, the computer screen offers a false sense of security: not having the scamming person in front of you, either vocally or physically, gives the consumer time to think things over, providing the illusion that he or she has arrived at a carefully-thought-through, or instinctive, conclusion.”

Dawson warned that “a decision made without all the facts, or one made on 'gut instinct' alone, is no substitute for knowledge."

Nick Staib, one of the founders of the campaign said that is was “important that consumers are aware of the increase and professionalism of online scammers.”

“You wouldn’t let a suspicious sales person into your house; and the same amount of caution should be taken when receiving emails from unfamiliar people or companies,” he said. “Conmen prey on trusting consumers and there are a number of protective measures that people can take. We urge people to seek advice from an experienced source and visit the Get Safe Online website if they unsure about anything they receive.”

Copyright © SC Magazine, US edition

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