A new report has shown that UK internet users are increasingly at risk from fraudsters using financial spam to take advantage of the credit crunch.
A study by computer security firm McAfee found that the UK has become a preferred target of bogus organisations offering pre-approved loans and credit cards. Nigerian fraudsters are most likely to target UK residents, the report found, with almost a quarter (23%) of this type of spam ending up in Britain.
In order to assess the benefits and dangers of unsolicited emails, McAfee asked 50 volunteers in 10 countries to surf the web unprotected for 30 days. Each volunteer was given a new, unprotected laptop and email address with a credit card allowance of £250 to spend on deals offered in spam emails.
The five UK participants received the fifth highest number of emails, 11,965 in total and 1,149 in the first week alone. Over 30 days, all 50 participants worldwide received a total of more than 104,000 spam emails, an average of 2,096 each or about 70 a day.
The experiment confirmed that spammers were "as active as ever" and were increasingly using "psychological tricks" to lure internet users into parting with contact details and cash, McAfee said. Spammers were using more local languages and cultural nuances as well as becoming much more targeted in a bid to avoid detection.
Many of the spam emails relied on phishing, or posing as a trustworthy source to fraudulently acquire sensitive information such as usernames, passwords and bank account details. Others carried viruses and many encouraged "malware", or malicious software, by persuading participants to surf unsafe websites.
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