Millions Snared in Web Fraud

More than 420,000 scam emails are sent every hour in the UK according to a report published today.

The study from life assistance company CPP estimates that Brits were targeted by 3.7 billion ‘phishing’ emails in the last 12 months alone. And a quarter of us admit to falling victim to e-fraudsters, with the average victim losing over £285 each.

Fake banking emails are the most common method used by criminals, with 55 per cent of those targeted receiving seemingly legitimate e-correspondence from high street banks. Over half received false lottery or competition prize draws, while a further one in two was targeted by foreign cons such as the renowned “Nigerian 419 advance fee fraud” scam.

And consumers must take caution, as latest industry figures show that online banking fraud rose by 132 per cent in the last 12 months. In fact, nearly half of Brits (46 per cent) worry their card details could be used to make illegal online purchases.

Fraudsters are also exploiting the explosion of social networking sites and current defaults in privacy settings to target victims. Nearly one fifth of Brits have received phoney Facebook messages claiming to be from friends or family. One in 10 fear that fraudsters are using Twitter to follow them and a third are concerned their social networking account could be hacked.

It seems that anyone – no matter their level of expertise – can fall prey. Tim Berners-Lee, creator of the World Wide Web fell foul to fraud after buying Christmas gifts online, which failed to show up. Movie-star Salma Hayek had her Apple MobileMe account attacked, and not even politicians are immune ¬– Ed Milliband’s Twitter account was infiltrated by hackers who posted details of a fictitious sex life.

Commenting on the report, Nicole Sanders, identity fraud expert at CPP said: “It seems that not a day goes by without a new case of online fraud hitting the headlines. But what’s concerning is that consumers are still falling victim.

“Fraudsters are becoming ever more skilled in their techniques and tactics. It can be extremely difficult to spot a legitimate email from a scam, so we advise caution at all times when online. And as social networking sites become increasingly popular, people need to continue to be mindful of what they post. Their identity is as valuable to a thief as a credit card, so protecting personal details is key.”

Robert Schifreen, reformed computer hacker advises: “Staying safe online is easy if you follow some basic precautions. Never type your credit card number, password, or any other confidential information into a web site unless its address begins with https and your browser displays the ‘closed padlock’ symbol. These indicate that the site is safe and that your data is encrypted. Also, make sure your antivirus software subscription is up to date and that your computer is configured to automatically download protective software.”

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