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Online crime leads to losses of £10.9 billion a year

That estimate, based on criminal activity and losses reported to Action Fraud, represents an average of £210 for every UK resident age 16 and up.

Just how much money are the UK’s people and small businesses losing to online crime? Depends on how you count, but according to new research from Get Safe Online and Action Fraud, the baseline figure is now a whopping £10.9 billion per year.

That estimate is based on criminal activity and losses reported to Action Fraud, the UK’s national fraud and cybercrime reporting center. That’s an average of £210 for every UK resident age 16 and up. But, as we all know, plenty of crime never gets reported.

What might the real number look like? According to a new survey released 18 October in honor of “Get Safe Online Day,” respondents who had been a victim of online crime averaged a loss of £523 each… more than an average week’s earnings in the UK.

Get Safe Online reports that “39% of people who said they’d been victims of online crime said they hadn’t reported the incident,” and 37% said “they felt there was nothing that could be done.”

This data offers a depressing but useful reminder that prevention is still better than cure. Unfortunately, according to the survey’s accompanying press release:

Many Britons are still not taking the basic steps to keep themselves safe online.

For instance:

  • Respondents report updating their security software only “every 8½ months” on average
  • 19% never update their device operating systems
  • 23% never update social media privacy settings; 58% say they don’t know how
  • 29% never back up documents and photos: hello ransomware
  • 12% never bother to change a password even after a company warns them that a breach has occurred

According to the survey:

  • 53% of UK residents say they’ve received fraudulent emails or other messages attempting to direct them to sites that might have tried to steal important personal data
  • 28% said they’d been contacted by someone trying to “trick them into giving away personal information”
  • 10% claimed their email or social media accounts had been hacked
  • 3% said they’d been victimized by ransomware (If accurate, that would translate to roughly 5 million people: one heck of a lot of scrambled data.)

No doubt folks are worried in the abstract: 89% are “somewhat or very concerned” about online safety and security, and the same percentage recognizes that online crime is “as damaging or more damaging than physical crime.”

But, for a sizable percentage, worry still doesn’t lead to action.

Action Fraud and Get Safe Online offer a handy checklist for protecting yourself. If you hang out here at Naked Security, it doesn’t offer much you don’t already know: review your passwords and privacy settings, update your OS and apps, back up to the cloud, and make sure your security software is turned on and up-to-date.

But if you’ve got a cyberclueless friend or relative, it’s not a bad place for them to start.

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