The UK public and small businesses are today being urged to start making every day safer as the latest online crime figures from Get Safe Online and Action Fraud reveal that a staggering £10.9 billion* was lost to the UK economy as a result of fraud, including cybercrime, in 2015/16.
That equates to approximately £210 per person over the age of 16 living in the UK**, but represents only reported fraud and cybercrime to Action Fraud.
However, a specially commissioned survey to mark Get Safe Online Day (18 October)***, reveals that this number is likely to be much greater, with respondents who had been a victim of online crime alone losing an average of £523 each – this being more than the average weekly earnings figure for the UK**** which currently stands at £505. In addition, 39% of people who said they’d been victims of online crime said they hadn’t reported the incident – this meaning that the overall amount of money lost by the UK could in fact be even more.
In addition, a quarter of (25%) the UK public said that they had a limited understanding of the risks they face when going online, but nine in 10 (89%) said they were somewhat or very concerned about their online safety and security. 89% also felt online crime was as damaging or more damaging than physical crime.
The victims of cybercriminals
The research found a worrying gap in people’s understanding of what constitutes an online crime – 86% said they had not been targeted by cybercriminals in the past 12 months. But, 68% of people in the UK have been targeted in a variety of ways:
- 53% received fraudulent emails or messages which have attempted to direct them to websites where their personal information could have been stolen, including bank details, user names and passwords.
- Over a quarter (28%) reported being contacted by someone who was trying to trick them into giving away personal information.
- 10% had their email or social media accounts hacked.
- 3% had been victims of ransomware, a fast-growing means of online extortion.
Of those who said they had been a victim of cybercrime, over a third (38%) said they felt that the matter was too trivial to report. Worryingly, over a third of people (37%) also said that they felt there was nothing that could be done.
Poor online safety habits
But, many Britons are still not taking the basic steps to keep themselves safe online with as many as 43% saying that they use the same password for multiple online accounts. In fact, even when a company warns people to change their password after a breach – three in 10 have been contacted to do so – 12% said they did not follow the advice. The survey found that people use an average 9 passwords across devices and accounts.
The research also showed that respondents only update their security software every 8½ months and two in 10 (19%) do not update their device operating systems at all. When it comes to taking care of personal information, nearly a quarter (23%) said they never update their privacy settings on social media, with 58% saying they did not know how to. Additionally, nearly a third (29%) don’t back up their documents and photographs at all.
Tony Neate, Chief Executive of Get Safe Online, comments: “The fact that the UK is losing nearly £11 billion to cyber criminals is frightening and highlights the need for each and every one of us to make sure we are taking our online safety seriously. It is clear from our survey that people are very concerned, and rightly so.”
Neate continued: “The fact that over a third of people felt there was nothing that could have been done to stop them becoming a victim is alarming indeed – particularly when it’s so easy to protect yourself online. Also, as our research shows, people are losing large sums of money on average - £523 being the equivalent of a holiday abroad or the price of a new piece of technology in the home. As a result, it seems there is still a big education job to do. Let’s not let cyber criminals get away with it anymore by ensuring that each and every one of us is updating the operating systems of our various devices and ensuring security software is always updated. What’s more we all need to ensure that we have a different password for each online account we own and website we visit. Online safety needs to be part of our everyday routines.”
City of London Police’s Commander Chris Greany, the Police National Coordinator for Economic Crime, said: “The huge financial loss to cybercrime hides the often harrowing human stories that destroy lives and blights every community in the UK. All of us need to ask ourselves are we doing everything we can to protect ourselves from online criminals. Unfortunately, people still click on links in unsolicited emails and fail to update their security software. Just as you wouldn’t leave your door unlocked, so you shouldn’t leave yourself unprotected online.”
Making online safety part your everyday routine
- This year’s Get Safe Online Day is encouraging everyone to start making every day safer by following a few simple steps:
- Review the passwords you use on your online accounts: Make sure they’re strong enough and that you’re not using the same ones for more than one account. Consider how you’re going to remember them all – such as using an online password safe.
- Check your social media privacy settings. Make sure your information and updates are seen only by those you trust.
- Update your operating system and software programs/apps on your computer, mobile phone and tablet if you’ve been prompted to do so. It takes only a few minutes and with your mobile devices, you can even do it while you’re asleep.
- Back up your information – using the cloud is a great way to save all your documents, photos, music, emails and other irreplaceable files.
- Check that your internet security software and apps are up to date and switched on.
- If you have children, think about whether you’re doing enough to help ensure they’re staying safe online.
- If you’ve lost money, it's very important that you report it. Reports should be made to Action Fraud, the UK’s national fraud reporting centre by calling 0300 123 20 40 or by visiting www.actionfraud.police.uk If you are a victim of online abuse or harassment, you should report it to your local police force.
Take a few minutes to read the expert, easy-to-follow, free advice on all of these and considerably more subjects at www.getsafeonline.org.
*Calculated as the amount of money lost in 2015/16 to fraud and cybercrime. This figure represents incidents reported to Action Fraud by those over 16 and with a valid UK postcode.
**Calculated according to most recent adult population (over 16 years) estimates from ONS.
***Survey conducted by Censuswide on behalf of Get Safe Online with 2,000 UK Adults.
****Calculated according to latest ONS figures for earnings and working hours which put the UK average weekly earnings at £505.