THE BLOG

Why You're Not Too Young To Be Caught By A Phisherman

24/10/2017 11:40 BST | Updated 24/10/2017 11:41 BST

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Photo credit: Scott Heavy

When you read stories about phishing, do you think 'that'll never happen to me'? Chances are, if you think that, you're probably under 25. Now this isn't a generalisation - our research proves that a quarter of young people think they are too savvy to get phished and one in ten think phishing 'only happens to old people'.

But did you also know that actually, one in nine Gen Zers have fallen victim to phishers, compared to only one in 20 over 55s? And that if you do fall victim, you'll lose on average £613.22, whereas your grandparents would only suffer a loss of £214.70? Think about it - can you afford to still think you're infallible?

We've probably got your attention. Which is good as 50 per cent of Brits have been targeted by online scammers in the past year - it's a huge problem and you need to know how to protect yourself against online con artists.

It's not just money that you might lose though. 13 per cent of people have their identity stolen, 10 per cent had their credit card details stolen and 15 per cent had their email address blocked.

And the emotional impact of phishing is harder on young people. Youngsters are ten times more likely to suffer mental health issues after being targeted.

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Photo credit: Scott Heavy

So why are more young people falling victim?

Evidence from our research reveals it could be due to teens and 20-somethings being more trusting of online communication than the older generations. Just two in five under 25s say they 'carefully read and re-read all emails', in contrast to 69 per cent of 55+ year olds.

Worryingly, half of under 25s even admit to regularly 'replying to or clicking links in unsolicited or spam emails' - despite it being a common technique used by cyber phishers.

So what does a phishing email look like? Well the most common one is a fake email claiming to be from a bank or other financial organisation asking for you to change or verify your log-in details. Or it might be an email from a brand or business company asking you to update log-ins or provide account details.

Similarly, you might get an email promising a cash refund if you supply your bank details. Or, most concerning, phishers even pose as family and friends asking for cash or bank details. You wouldn't refuse your gran if she asked for a tenner, would you?

Looking at nanas and phishing leads us to an interesting point. Most young people believe that scammer must be under 25 to hack them, and one in ten think the older generation don't have the skills to phish them. But you'd be wrong.

As part of Get Safe Online Week we set out to prove that anyone can get phished - and anyone could be behind the phishing - so we trained a group of nans to phish their grandkids.

We dubbed them the 'Scammer Nanas' and taught them how to construct a phishing email. Their schooling included faking their email address, creating false links, inventing a fake 'company' and writing a convincing fake email. They then put their knowledge to the test and phished people your age with emails with fraudulent links - proving that young people aren't as aware as you might think.

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Photo credit: Scott Heavy

We're not saying you should be scared of every email you receive! But next time, just think before you click on the link. Follow these simple tips to stay safe:

- Never turn off spam filters, it is also worth checking now and again that they're still on

- Apply caution when responding to messages and consider anything that looks dubious - bad spelling, unfamiliar emails and a non-specific greeting like 'Dear customer' are some of the signs of phishing emails

- Never ever click on links if you're at all suspicious as phishers put dodgy links and attachments into emails, messages and social posts that download all sorts to your computer

- Always get in touch with the organisation or individual who the message claims to be from using other means - ideally via phone - if you've got any doubts

- Spot scammers by recognising when something looks too good to be true - that's because it probably is!

So what do you do with scam emails? Well for a start - don't do what one in ten do and ignore it. Or panic, or even buy a new laptop (one in 33 people actually do this!). Report it to an industry body like Action Fraud (actionfraud.police.uk) or your email provider. You can get advice on this and general online safety at getsafeonline.org.

Tony Neate is the CEO of Get Safe Online, the UK's leading source of information on online safety. Find out more about Get Safe Online Week and the Scammer Nanas here: www.getsafeonline.org/scammernanas