The threat from cyber fraud has spiralled during this year’s lockdowns. As people spend more time and money online, many are falling for scam offers. One in five people – 11 million in total – have had their data hacked or accessed illegally. And a third do not know how to protect their personal information online. Many computer users have simply given up and are not even trying to prevent fraud, leaving their data and finances at the mercy of hackers.
Cyber security company Clario and think tank Demos compiled the research, outlining the threats in its report, The Great Cyber Surrender.
Clario vice-president Scarlet Jeffers said the number of victims is “staggering”.
She said: “The threat is rising as we are living in a world where our lives are managed almost entirely online. People think they should suffer in silence, which leads to cyber crime being under-reported.
“Cyber crime causes psychological damage beyond losing one’s finance or identity.”
She called on the Government and cyber crime bodies to raise awareness of the scale of the crisis and what can be done to tackle it.
Bill Birnie, general manager of security firm OpSec Online, said the frequency of data breaches had left many people “desensitised”. He said: “Our research shows 30 per cent of victims weren’t even surprised when they found out about it.”
Its survey shows 40 per cent have been the victim of an email scam, more than a third have suffered credit or debit card fraud and one in five have been the victim of identity theft.
The banking industry body UK Finance has warned criminals are exploiting Covid-19 by sending “phishing” emails or text messages to steal details. And last week Which? said Britons had lost £16million to computer scams in the last year, where fraudsters phone pretending to be tech support from a firm such as BT.
Desmond Hobbs, 74, had a narrow escape from online fraudsters when he tried to buy garden furniture on eBay.
The criminals faked details of a reputable vendor and pocketed his payment.
Desmond said he was shocked to have been duped but relieved when PayPal refunded his money. He said: “It’s so easy to fall victim.”
Age UK charity director Caroline Abrahams said many elderly victims “often experience a deep sense of shame, embarrassment, anxiety and a loss of independence”.