Half of the adults in England and Wales reported receiving phishing messages in the month before being asked, with fraudsters exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic and the rising cost of living to target their victims.

New data from the Telephone-operated Crime Survey of England and Wales has shown adults aged between 25 and 44 years were more likely to receive a phishing message than other age groups.

Adults were more likely to receive a phishing message if they:

  • were employed (56% compared with 39% of unemployed adults)
  • were married or in a civil partnership, or cohabiting (53% and 56% compared with 45% of single adults)
  • lived in households with children (58% compared with 47% among adults in households without children)
  • were homeowners or private renters (52% and 53% compared with 36% of social renters)
  • lived in the least deprived areas in England (56% compared with 42% in the most deprived areas)

New methods are exploiting the rising cost of living to trick victims, including posing as legitimate government support for energy bills. Of those who replied to or clicked on a link in a phishing message, more than a third (35%) said they did so for financial or material gain, and 30% to pay an invoice or bill.

Of those who received phishing messages, more than half (54%) said the sender had been posing as a delivery company, a third (32%) received messages apparently from their bank or building society, and a quarter (25%) from government services.

Some phishing messages mimic genuine government support.

If you are ever in doubt about a message you have received don't open it.

Screenshot of phishing message offering to check eligibility for the government  Energy Bills Support Scheme