Fewer than One-Fifth of UK Citizens Can Identify Basic Fraud Attempts

Only 17% of people in the UK can correctly identify basic digital threats, such as social media messages intended to trick users into sharing personal details or downloading malware.

That’s according to Barclays’ just-launched Digital Safety Index, which maps how generations and regions compare in terms of their ability to identify cyber-threats and protect themselves from cybercrime.

The financial giant, which also has announced a multi-million pound initiative to boost the UK’s cyber security defenses, found that individuals with the best digital skills overall are also those least likely to pay attention to their digital safety—suggesting that digital familiarity is breeding complacency. This is borne out in millennials who are twice as likely to be victims of online fraud than older generations.

Despite having better coding and content creation skills, millennials are less able to protect themselves online than their parents or grandparents—over-65s score 27% higher in the Digital Safety Index than 18- to 24-year-olds (the youngest group surveyed). This puts to bed the notion that older people are more at risk of being “duped” by cyber-criminals.

Highly educated Londoners (Masters degree and above) aged 25-34 the UK’s most vulnerable group—they scored worst in the digital safety test. Perhaps this is why cyber-criminals are targeting city dwellers over those in the countryside—with London, Bristol and Birmingham being scam hotspots.

London and Bristol also top the tables for the most reported cases of fraud, with Manchester joining them in the top three. Newcastle reported fewer cases of fraud and scams, while Liverpool reported a particularly high number of impersonation scams.

“It’s alarming that younger people and those in cities are more at risk”, said Laura Flack, Barclays head of digital safety. “We need to super-charge our digital know-how and talk to our friends and relatives to prevent these crimes from happening. Often staying safe isn’t rocket science. A few practical steps and a dose of vigilance can boost your safety immeasurably. Remember if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

Overall, Barclays research reveals a quarter of people in the UK (25%) have experienced a cyber-fraud or scam in the past three years, 18% of them more than once, suggesting that many cybercrimes go unreported. Worryingly, nearly a fifth (17%) of people who have been a victim of a fraud or scam take no action to boost their digital defenses as a result. Men are slightly more at risk than women.

 “Fraud is often wrongly described as an invisible crime, but the effects are no less damaging to people’s lives,” said Ashok Vaswani, CEO of Barclays UK. “As a society, our confidence in using digital technology to shop, pay our bills and connect with others has grown faster than our knowledge of how to do so safely. This has created a ‘digital safety gap’ which is being exploited by criminals. I believe the need to fight fraud has now become a national resilience issue, and we all need to boost our digital safety levels in order to close the gap.”

Barclays also launched a £10m national digital safety drive with provocative adverts designed to spur individuals to pay attention to their digital safety, along with an online quiz to let people test their skills. By answering simple questions, people can assess their own digital safety level, and receive useful tips on how to strengthen their defenses. The bank also debuted new debit card features that allow customers to turn off spending and change ATM limits remotely.

Barclays also will be hosting regular fraud awareness takeovers on its online and mobile banking sites, free support clinics for the 1 million UK SMEs it serves, and its nationwide force of 17,000 Digital Eagles will provide digital safety teach-ins. Barclays LifeSkills is also launching new Digital Safety learning content specifically designed for younger people.

“I want to help make digital safety as commonplace as locking your front door. I want businesses, the police and the public to unite and stand shoulder to shoulder together so that we can block and frustrate the bad guys at every turn,” Vaswani noted.

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