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Nine in 10 online adults have encountered suspected scams – Ofcom

About nine in 10 adult UK internet users have encountered suspected scams online, a study suggests.

Almost half of those questioned by Ofcom (46%) said they had been personally drawn in by an online scam, while two in five (39%) knew someone else who had fallen victim.

A quarter of those who encountered online fraud had lost money as a result, with a fifth (21%) being scammed out of £1,000 or more.

However a significant minority (17%) took no action, mostly believing it would not make a difference.

More than a third of all victims (34%) said the experience had an immediate negative impact on their mental health, increasing to nearly two thirds (63%) among those who had lost money.

Scams graph
(Ofcom/PA)

Men, younger adults aged 18 to 34 and those with children in the household are significantly more likely to have seen suspected scams.

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Among those who had experienced online scam or fraud, almost a quarter (23%) first encountered it on social media – the second most common channel after email.

Impersonation fraud was the most common type experienced at 51%, followed by counterfeit goods scams (42%), investment, pension or “get rich quick” scams (40%) and computer software service or ransomware scams (37%).

Potential victims were most commonly contacted via a direct message or a mass message posted to a group, 20% were reached through online ads while others were targeted through “user-generated” and influencer posts or videos.

Ofcom’s director of online safety policy, Richard Wronka, said: “Falling victim to online fraud can have a devastating impact on people’s financial and mental wellbeing.

“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.”

Yonder surveyed 2,097 UK adults online between May 5-17 last year.