PEOPLE in Dyfed-Powys are being urged to start making every day safer as the latest online crime figures from Get Safe Online and the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) reveal that a staggering £4 million was lost by the area as a result of fraud, including cybercrime in 2015/16.
Nationally, this figure rose to a staggering £10.9 billion over the same period which equates to approximately £210 per person over the age of 16 living in the UK, but represents only reported fraud and cybercrime to Action Fraud.
However, a specially commissioned survey to mark Get Safe Online Day (Oct 18) reveals that the UK figure is likely to be much greater, with respondents who had been a victim of online crime alone losing an average of £523 each – this being more than the average weekly earnings figure for the UK which currently stands at £505.
In addition, 39% of people who said they’d been victims of online crime said they hadn’t reported the incident – this meaning that the overall amount of money lost by the UK could in fact be even more.
In Wales, 30% said that they had a limited understanding of the risks they face when going online, but 91% said they were somewhat or very concerned about their online safety and security. 88% also said they felt online crime was as damaging or more damaging than physical crime.
The victims of cyber criminals
The research found a worrying gap in people’s understanding of what constitutes an online crime – 89% of people from Wales said they had not been targeted by cyber criminals in the past 12 months. But, 61% had in fact been targeted in a variety of ways:
- 51% received fraudulent emails or messages which have attempted to direct them to websites where their personal information could have been stolen, including bank details, user names and passwords
- 25% reported being contacted by someone who was trying to trick them into giving away personal information
- 11% had their email or social media accounts hacked
- 2% had been victims of ransomware, a fast-growing online crime
Of those who said they had been a victim of cybercrime, 67% said they felt that the matter was too trivial to report. Worryingly, 57% also said that they felt there was nothing that could be done.
Poor online safety habits
But, many people in Wales are still not taking the basic steps to keep themselves safe online with as many as 39% saying that they use the same password for multiple online accounts. In fact, even when a company warns people to change their password after a breach – 28% have been contacted to do so – 14% said they did not follow the advice. The survey found that people use an average 10 passwords across devices and accounts.
The research also showed that respondents in the area only update their security software every 7 months and 25% do not update their device operating systems at all. When it comes to taking care of personal information, 22% said they never update their privacy settings on social media, with 66% saying they did not know how to. Additionally, 26% don’t back up their documents and photographs at all.
Tony Neate, Chief Executive of Get Safe Online, said: “The fact that the UK is losing nearly £11 billion to cyber criminals is frightening and highlights the need for each and every one of us to make sure we are taking our online safety seriously. It is clear from our survey that people are very concerned, and rightly so.
“The fact that over a third of people felt there was nothing that could have been done to stop them becoming a victim is alarming indeed – particularly when it’s so easy to protect yourself online. Also, as our research shows, people are losing large sums of money on average – £523 being the equivalent of a holiday abroad or the price of a new piece of technology in the home. As a result, it seems there is still a big education job to do.
“Let’s not let cyber criminals get away with it anymore by ensuring that each and every one of us is updating the operating systems of our various devices and ensuring security software is always updated. What’s more we all need to ensure that we have a different password for each online account we own and website we visit. Online safety needs to be part of our everyday routines.”
Pam Kelly, Assistant Chief Constable, Dyfed-Powys Police, said: “Cybercrime are our hidden streets and we need to keep people safe within the online community. I urge the public to take online security seriously and to think carefully about the Get Safe Online Day messages, paying particular attention to the passwords you use online. Using strong passwords is an essential part of crime prevention and disruption and I urge the public to think seriously about the importance of this message.
“The easiest way to create a strong, memorable password is to use three random words.”
Making online safety part your everyday routine
This year’s Get Safe Online Day is encouraging everyone to start making every day safer by following a few simple steps:
- Review the passwords you use on your online accounts: Make sure they’re strong enough and that you’re not using the same ones for more than one account. Consider how you’re going to remember them all – such as using an online password safe.
- Check your social media privacy settings. Make sure your information and updates are seen only by those you trust.
- Update your operating system and software programs/apps on your computer, mobile phone and tablet if you’ve been prompted to do so. It takes only a few minutes and with your mobile devices, you can even do it while you’re asleep.
- Back up your information – using the cloud is a great way to save all your documents, photos, music, emails and other irreplaceable files.
- Check that your internet security software and apps are up to date and switched on.
- If you have children, think about whether you’re doing enough to help ensure they’re staying safe online.
- If you’ve lost money report it to Action Fraud, the UK’s national fraud reporting centre by calling 0300 123 20 40 or by visiting actionfraud.police.uk If you are a victim of online abuse or harassment, you should report it to your local police force.
- Take a few minutes to read the expert, easy-to-follow, free advice on all of these and considerably more subjects at www.getsafeonline.org