The rising need to promote cybersecurity awareness on a national level

By Guest Writer Nat Campbell, a copywriter in the financial services industry

First Published: 01 June 2018

Why we need to stay on top of online scams

There are two big reasons why scams need to be met head-on with a drive for awareness.

On the one hand, the nation is bombarded by the increasingly diverse ways in which criminals try and trick us out of our hard-earned money. On the other, there’s a real lack of knowledge about online scams and cybersecurity.

The changing face of cybercrime

In their Overview of Fraud and Computer Misuse Statistics for England and Wales, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) warn that ‘scams have evolved more dramatically than other crimes over recent times with the rise of computers and the internet and the introduction of "plastic payment”’.

Criminals are clearly taking advantage of the new ways we choose to pay. If we don’t promote an awareness of the importance of cybersecurity, our increased reliance on cashless payments and digital platforms will bring with it an ever-increasing vulnerability to criminals.

Fortunately, by taking on a few simple habits, we can all take a stand against scams.

A false sense of online security?

Before we look at some of the ways we can protect ourselves, it’s worth taking a look at some of the data on cybercrime to challenge common assumptions.

For example, many believe that online risks only threaten the older generations. The elderly are certainly vulnerable online. According to AgeUK, last year ‘almost 5 million older people (65+)’ believed they had been targeted by criminals online.

But is that's far from the end of the story.

It’s true that more and more elderly people are venturing out online. Dangers such as computer viruses and internet scams may be new to them, but in a recent study, when it comes to taking a safe approach to what we share online, pensioners actually scored higher than students. 

According to the survey by NatWest, young people are less 'cyber cautious', with 84% of those aged 18 to 24 saying they’re comfortable sharing personal information online. By contrast, only 50% of those over 55 are willing to do the same. 

Even more troubling is the fact that almost half of all the survey respondents, (45%), said that they thought the elderly and those aged over 66 were more at risk of being a victim of scams. 

The truth is that different scams are more effective on different groups – and no one is safe without the proper education. But these statistics suggest that those under 55 may be a little too complacent about their own level of risk.

We need a cybersecurity brush up – on a national scale.

5 steps to taking a stand against scams

The key to staying safe online is forming good habits, and you can start today.

While there are hackers and viruses out there, a lot of scams depend on tricking the person, not the technology. We’ve put together a few tips to help you stay ‘cyber aware’.

1. Make sure your device is up to date
According to the above study, 22% of British adults online don’t know what the best security software for their device is. Thankfully there are many free versions of antivirus software available out there.

2. Make a scams action plan
Criminals like to take us by surprise. 22% of people wouldn’t know what to do if they were experiencing online security issues. Make sure you keep your bank’s phone number on hand so that if you find you’ve been the victim of a scam, you can act straight away.

3. Don’t overshare on social media and check your privacy settings
Security expert Mikko Hypponen puts it plainly "Never post anything online that you wouldn’t mind seeing posted on the cover of a newspaper. Even if you think your post is not visible to everyone, it could very well be.”

4. Never click links from unknown emails
Whether the link comes from a spam email offering you a deal, or a spam text message telling you that your bank account has been defrauded, never click a link. And never make telephone payments to cold callers.

5. Spread the word to help raise awareness
You can start raising awareness right now. Sharing these tips with those you care about will help spread the word.

Click here to find out other ways you can get involved in the fight against scams with Friends Against Scams.