Nearly half of adults have become so suspicious of scams they now ignore genuine emails, according to research.
The study of 2,000 adults found one in three are so worried about clicking on potentially dangerous links in emails that they make a point of checking them first.
The fear of being scammed ranked as the highest reason for this cautious approach, while identity theft and wanting to avoid computer viruses rounded off the top three.
However, this approach has seen 47 percent overlook an important and genuine email, because they thought it was a scam.
Professor Kerensa Jennings, senior adviser on digital impact at BT, which commissioned the research alongside Good Things Foundation ahead of Get Online Week, said: “Online scams have been around now for a number of years.
“From emails asking people to help transfer vast sums of money, to more recent scam emails that pretend to be from your bank or a well-known company, asking you to share your personal information.
“It's no wonder therefore that people are cautious and careful – rightly so.
“It's important that we're all aware of the latest scams and what we can do to protect ourselves, so we don’t miss out on genuine correspondence but stay safe if there is anything sent with malicious intent.”
The study also found that despite many erring on the side of caution, more than one in ten will still click on links in emails without vetting them first.
As a result, three in ten have been the victim of a scam, while nearly one in two have come close to such an ordeal by almost clicking on a link in an email that looked genuine.
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It also emerged more than a third of those surveyed via OnePoll.com refuse to send their bank details over text for fear of being scammed, with nearly a fifth steering clear of social media sites for the same reason.
And more than one in ten will avoid shopping online to protect themselves from data thieves.
As many as three in four are worried about how safe the internet is, yet a quarter confessed the virus protection on their computer isn’t currently up to date.
Consequently, four in ten believe it’s only a matter of time before their data is stolen.
In fact, 80 percent of respondents agreed there should be more support for adults to develop their knowledge and confidence of online safety.
Professor Jennings added: “The main advice is to never provide your personal information or bank details up front, especially to a person or company that contacts you out of the blue.
“If in doubt, contact the organisation or company directly to check the information you received.
“Through BT's Skills for Tomorrow initiative, we have a range of free resources and tips to help people stay safe online and be scammer-aware, such as our new 10-minute online safety training which helps people spot the common signs of scams and scammers.”
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