2020 is already a year that most of us want to forget, but not the hackers. They wasted no time in ramping up their attacks with scam after scam as Coronavirus overtook the world.

The year is now being dubbed “scamdemic” as previously offline activities – such as GP appointments - shift online, and people were forced to shop and bank online during lockdown.

Cybercriminals took full advantage of this with a huge range of scams, mainly phishing emails and messages which tricked users into entering their bank, government and other login details to fake websites. Some of the scams were truly sophisticated, such as the Facebook / PayPal scam.

New research from McAfee shows that it’s 16-24 year olds who claim to have fallen for scams more than any other age group. Despite being digital natives, they were found to be twice as likely to fall for an online banking scam than the over 55s.

60% of millennials and Gen Z collectively have been scammed compared to only 40% of baby boomers. Plus, 47% of the 55-65 year olds which said they’d been scammed were targeted via email.

Roughly the same proportion – 45% - of 16-24 year olds – said the scams were via social media, showing that hackers are targeting different age ranges with different methods.

A worrying 60% of the dangerous links in these scams were shared on social sites by friends or family, one of the reasons why people fell for the tricks.

McAfee says there’s a clear need for ‘safer measures’ now that everyone is relying so heavily on online platforms, and that the risks involved depend upon how much personal information people share.

The research found that three times as many 25-39 year olds share their location regularly on social media, compared to those over 55. This is a key piece of information which helps criminals get ‘direct access into their lives’.

But it’s the younger generation – perhaps better described at digital naïves rather than natives – which would also benefit from better security as they were found to be twice as likely as the baby boomers to accept a friend request from a stranger on social media.

Facebook has started putting measures in place to warn users of potentially fake requests in Messenger, but Millennials and Gen Zs are much less likely to use Facebook than Instagram and other platforms.

McAfee’s 2021 security software adds protection from social media scams by highlighting those dodgy links in Instagram, Twitter, Reddit, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube.

Rather than relying entirely on your security app to protect you, it’s a very good idea to be aware of the types of scams currently around, and how to spot them. You should also avoid logging into websites with 'social' logins such as Google and Facebook, as this is increases your security risk: create separate accounts and use a password manager so you don't have to reuse passwords across sites.

We’ve also put together these tips for staying safe online.

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