Revealed: Brits are missing key steps when it comes to scam prevention

70% of Brits don’t change passwords regularly and less than half opt out of third party data use. Less than half (45%) exercise caution when connecting to free Wi-Fi and the group most likely to be exposed to online harm is 18-34 year olds.

London, UK – 5th July 2022: Rightly, the independent data champions and consumer data action service, today reveals that despite spending more time than ever online, Brits are failing to take basic security steps, leaving themselves exposed to scams.

The research, conducted among 2000+ adults across the UK, found that almost half of Brits (48%) have fallen victim to a scam or come close, with over a third (37%) losing money as a result. In London these figures are even more stark, with nearly two-thirds (64%) having experienced a scam or having come close. Younger people are particularly vulnerable to scams with 42% of 18-34 year olds, and the same proportion of 35-44 year olds having previously fallen victim, despite both these groups over indexing in confidence that they are safe from online harm.

Despite 70% of Brits feeling that they have taken adequate steps to protect themselves from scams, this research reveals that many are still leaving themselves vulnerable to exploitation from bad actors.

A large proportion of Brits are savvy when it comes to well-known measures such as not replying to emails that look suspicious (85%), being wary of pop-ups (81%), and using virus protection (73%), but there are other less well-publicised risks still taken by many.

Think before you connect:

Less than a third of Brits (30%) regularly change their passwords, while only 45% are wary when it comes to connecting to free Wi-Fi. As the summer holiday season gets underway and travel returns to normal, many of us will take the opportunity to connect to public Wi-Fi in airports, hotels, and restaurants. But with almost a quarter of the world’s public Wi-Fi using no encryption, this means that data sent and received while connected to this network could fall into the wrong hands, leaving personal and financial information at risk. Perhaps unsurprisingly given that they are most likely to experience online harm, only a third (35%) of 18-34 year-olds hesitate before using public WiFi, compared with 58% of 55-64 year-olds.

The data broker plague:

The study also revealed that 48% of Brits regularly opt out of third-party data use. Many businesses will encourage customers to opt into sharing their data with selected third parties. But ticking this box means consenting to private and personal information finding its way into the wrong hands. This personal data gets sold on to so-called data brokers who build a highly detailed profile of the individual. This data can be sold on multiple times to companies who will use it for highly-targeted marketing. Even more concerningly, this personal information will often end up on the dark web where it can be exploited by fraudsters. Again, research revealed that the older generation is more savvy when it comes to sharing their data – 56% of over 65s always opt out, compared with just 39% of 18-34 year-olds. These results also vary by region, with those in the East Midlands most likely to opt out (57%) compared with East Anglia, where only 42% of people regularly opt out of sharing their data.

How the cookie crumbles:

All web users will be familiar with the cookie pop-ups which appear when browsing websites. But despite their ubiquity, only 19% of Brits regularly reject these to avoid sharing personal information. While cookies are often used to improve the online experience, third-party cookies can be used by advertisers and analytics companies to track and sell user behaviour, contributing to the vast pool of data held by third parties.

James Walker, CEO at Rightly, comments, “While many of us are aware of some of the steps we can take to protect ourselves online, scammers continue to evolve and their methods become ever more sophisticated. We all know by now that our personal data has real value, but it’s time to take control of how it is being used to stop the wrong information falling into the wrong hands. Understanding how our data is being used and shared – and how to prevent this – is the biggest thing we can all do to stop these bad actors in their tracks.”

Rightly Top Tips on protecting personal data

  • If you are connecting to a public Wi-Fi network, consider using a VPN (virtual private network) app which will encrypt everything you send and receive over this network
  • Change passwords regularly and ensure you use separate passwords for each account. Avoid passwords which contain personal details such as names of streets and pets
  • Always opt out of sharing your data with third parties. As soon as you tick this box you relinquish control of who has access to your data and how they are using it

Clean up your data footprint by deleting your data from those that don’t need it. Rightly Protect allows you to request data deletions to as many companies as you like for a single click and for free


Research Methodology:

Rightly partnered with Atomik Research to conduct an online survey among 2,005 adults in the UK. The research fieldwork took place between 7th-10th June 2022.