DURBAN - Internet users in South Africa are not doing enough to safeguard themselves online, according to a study commissioned by Google.

The survey, conducted among 1500 internet users, found that 53% of the respondents had received phishing emails from people imitating legitimate sources in order to fraudulently gain access to their personal information, including passwords and bank details.

Another 24% of South African internet users admitted to having fallen victim to online scams in which they ended up making upfront payment for a product or service that did not exist.

Despite these alarming numbers, few South Africans actually take advantage of readily-available services and safeguards.

Fortune Mgwili-Sibanda, head of public policy and government relations at Google SA, said this was concerning.

“This research shows that South Africans are well aware of the dangers that present themselves online, yet so few are proactively using tools available to protect them from online predators.”

He said that internet safety covered a range of areas that went even beyond the study, such as child safety on the internet and the prevention of internet addiction.

“In 2018, we launched Family Link - software that enables parents to supervise their children’s use of the internet.

“We also launched our Digital Wellbeing app to help users understand their online habits so THAT technology can help, rather than hinder them in their daily lives.”

He said the survey found a further 43% of South Africans used the same password for most or all their online services and only 34% use two-step verification for all their online accounts.

Sibanda said in light of Safer Internet Day, observed around the globe yesterday, they wanted South Africans to do more to protect themselves online.

“With Safer Internet Day, we want to encourage South Africans to take their online safety more seriously and educate themselves on the tools available out there, such as the Google Security Check-Up and other free tools.”

- THE MERCURY