Nine in ten online adults in the UK have come across content they suspected to be a scam or fraud
New research commissioned by Ofcom has revealed that almost 43 million UK adult internet users have encountered suspected online scams, with one in five victims losing more than £1,000.
The study found that 87% of online UK adults have come across content that they believed to be a scam or fraud, while 46% said they had been personally drawn in by an online scam.
A fifth of those who lost money were scammed out of £1,000 or more.
Furthermore, 34% of all victims reported that the experience had an immediate negative impact on their mental health, increasing to nearly two-thirds among those who had lost money.
Impersonation fraud was the most common type of online scam or fraud experienced, followed by counterfeit goods scams, investment, pension, or ‘get rich quick’ scams and computer software service or ransomware scams.
Among those who suffered financial loss from any type of scam, two in five lost between £1 and £99, while one in five lost £1,000 or more.
The study also found that men, younger adults aged 18-34, and people with children in the household were significantly more likely to encounter online content that they believed to be a scam or fraudulent.
Nearly a quarter of those who had experienced an online scam or fraud first encountered it on social media, the second most common channel after email.
When asked who should take action against online scams and fraud, the majority of participants (61%) felt that online tech firms have a responsibility.
Fewer people said responsibility should fall to users or the police, while three in ten think Ofcom should be responsible.
The majority of participants considered that an online alert from the platform, warning that the content or messages had come from an unverified user, would be useful in helping to prevent people from falling victim to scammers.
The Online Safety Bill, which is currently making its way through Parliament, will require tech firms to assess and take steps to mitigate the risks of harm to users from ‘priority illegal content,’ including certain types of fraudulent content.
Ofcom will have new powers to ensure platforms comply with their new online safety duties and will develop Guidance and Codes of Practice to assist their compliance.
Richard Wronka, Ofcom Director, Online Safety Policy, said, “Falling victim to online fraud can have a devastating impact on people’s financial and mental well-being.”
“The Online Safety Bill will place new obligations on online services to protect their users against online fraud and scams. Today’s report provides crucial evidence that will help to inform our approach to implementing those new laws when they arrive.”
Rocio Concha, Which? Director of Policy and Advocacy, said, “This latest research exposes the frightening scale of online fraud and backs up recent Which? research that found a slew of misleading and potentially fraudulent investment adverts are still targeting Facebook and Instagram users.”
“The Online Safety Bill has been going through Parliament for a year, and progress has been much too slow, with people still being scammed every day.”
“The government must take a crucial step in the fight against fraud by ensuring the Bill includes the strongest possible protections for consumers and is passed into law without further delays.”
“The study highlights the importance of being vigilant when encountering online content and the need for greater regulation and accountability on the part of tech firms to combat online fraud and scams.”
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