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Scamdemic: Aussies spend an hour per week verifying texts and emails

McAfee Corp., a global leader in online protection, today released its first-ever Global Scam Message Study. The study surveyed more than 7,000 adults in seven countries to understand how scam messages, and the increased scam sophistication brought about by artificial intelligence (AI), have impacted the lives of consumers worldwide.

This study reveals that Aussies receive an average of more than 8 (8.3) fake messages or scams each day. Interestingly, nearly half (46%) of Aussies have believed one or more fake messages. Nearly a third (28%) of those experienced financial losses as the result of a scam message; 16% lost more than $100 and 1 in 10 (12%) lost more than $500. 

AI is a scammer’s favourite tool, helping cybercriminals increase the scale, sophistication and speed of phishing and text message scams. These fake emails, text messages and phishing sites are more believable than ever thanks to the advancements in artificial intelligence. In fact, a new phishing site is created every 11 seconds and McAfee detects and protects against more than a million phishing attempts every single day, illustrating the deluge of scam messages consumers are faced with. 

Key Facts:

  • 46% of Aussies would opt to get a one-time root canal, rather than face a year of scam messages
  • Global study reveals consumer overwhelm, caused by the onslaught of increasingly believable text, email, and social media scams amid a rising AI-powered scam surge
  • People receive an average of nearly 8 fake messages or scams daily, via email, text, or social media
  • The average Australian spends 63 minutes each week reviewing, verifying, or deciding whether a message sent through text, email or social media is real or fake, equating to more than one standard work week (54.6 hours) per year

“Amidst the surge of cyberscams, it’s not astounding to see that Aussies would rather get a root canal than deal with a year of scam messages,” said Tyler McGee, Head of APAC, McAfee. “Interestingly, 44% of Aussies believe it is easier to solve the Rubik’s cube than it is to tell real from fake messages these days, thanks to artificial intelligence making scams more believable. This flood of fraudulent communications not only consumes Australians’ time and resources but also poses significant security risks. At McAfee, we are dedicated to ensuring that people’s identity, privacy, and personal information are protected, and to delivering a safer and more enjoyable online experience for every Australian.” 

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The 2023 McAfee Scam Message Study

McAfee’s research revealed four key insights about online scams and spotlighted the increased stress people are facing as AI drives an increase in the number and sophistication of scam messages, along with the need for an AI-driven solution to the problem. The survey results are detailed below.

Today’s scam messages are cleverly camouflaged

87% of Australians surveyed feel that it’s harder than ever to spot when a text, email, or social media message is a scam, and 55% believe hackers are using artificial intelligence to be more accurate and believable with their scams. Further, 42% of people said that scam messages no longer have typos or errors, and are very believable as a result, and that scam messages are harder to identify because they are often very personal.  

This sophisticated trickery takes five common forms. The below numbers indicate the percentage of Australian survey respondents who’ve received each type of message in the past year:  

  • “You’ve won a prize!” – 69%  
  • Information about a purchase the recipient didn’t make – 65%  
  • Fake missed delivery, or delivery problem, notification – 77% 
  • Amazon security alert, or notification messages regarding account updates – 49% 
  • Netflix (or a similar streaming service) subscription updates – 52%

People are drowning in a scam message sea

The average Aussie spends 63 minutes each week reviewing, verifying, or deciding whether a message sent through text, email, social media is real or fake. This amounts to more than one standard work week (54.6 hours) per year, spent on scam-spotting. More specifically:

  • Email: 93% of Aussie surveyed indicate that they receive fake messages or scams via email on a daily basis. 30% receive 5 or more fake email messages each day.
  • Text: 90% of Aussie survey respondents indicate that they receive fake messages or scams via text each day. 16% receive 5 or more fake text messages each day.
  • Social Media: 62% of the people surveyed indicate that they receive fake messages or scams via social media every day. 15% receive 5 or more of these social media scams daily.

To click, or not to click, is a potentially complicated question

With the increased volume and more advanced appearance of scam messages, close to half (46%) of Aussies have clicked or fallen for fake messages in the last 12 months. Of those who have believed one or more fake messages, the most believed messages are:

  • “You’ve won a prize!” – 16%
  • Fake missed delivery, or delivery problem, notification – 19%
  • Information about a purchase the recipient didn’t make – 14%
  • Bank alert messages – 13%

Engaging with scam messages can be costly and stressful. Close to a third (28%) of Australians who clicked on a scam message lost money as a result. The people surveyed indicated they would prefer the following painful or scary experiences over dealing with online scam texts and messages throughout the year: 

  • A one-time root canal – 46% 
  • 24-hour food poisoning – 36%  
  • Doing taxes every month – 54%  
  • Sleep in a haunted house for one night – 47% 

An AI ally is needed as scam stakes rise and online trust sinks

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As the number of AI-powered scams continues to rise, 47% of Australia survey respondents say their trust in digital communications has decreased. This trend is largely due to a lack of depth in digital defense knowledge: 36% of people say they don’t know if they are doing the right things to protect themselves. People manage this knowledge gap in different ways:

  • 34% of people ignore an email, when they receive an email or text that they think might be a scam
  • 41% block the sender when they receive this type of message
  • 20% report suspected scam messages

However, people do believe in new, AI-driven tools and resources to fight fraudsters: 47% of Aussies say they’d trust a solution or feature that uses AI to detect online scams, and 28% believe we need AI to beat AI.

How to Protect Yourself from Scam Messages

  • Think before you click. Cybercriminals use phishing emails or fake sites to lure people into clicking links that could lead to malware. If you receive an email asking you to click on a link, even if it’s a great-sounding deal or indicates it’ll provide useful information, it’s best to avoid interacting with the message altogether. Always go direct to the source and interact with reputable companies.
  • Remember that if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Many scams are effective because the scammer creates a false sense of urgency or preys on a heightened emotional state. Pause before you rush to interact with any message that is threatening or urgent, especially if it is from an unknown or unlikely sender.
  • Use AI to beat AI. From blocking dangerous links that appear on text messages, social media, or web browsers, customers across all platforms can take advantage of the AI-driven technology behind McAfee Scam Protection to engage with text messages, read emails, and browse the web peacefully and securely.
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