August 9, 2022

Former Police Commander, Karen Baxter responds to the latest digital trust research from LexisNexis Risk Solutions and explores how it informs law enforcement’s approach to tackling fraud.

Banks were revealed to be the brands most trusted by UK consumers in a recent study conducted by LexisNexis Risk Solutions. Banks got the highest share of votes (86%) from consumers when asked which sectors they most trust overall. They also said they trust the banks most to keep their personal details safe online, with nearly two-thirds of UK adults (60%) agreeing.

Twice as many of those questioned trusted banks over other traditionally trusted sectors like law enforcement, government organisations and utilities (after all, a utility bill is still a recognised trusted proof of identity).  In fact, online banking scored consistently well as an industry across all age groups – 80% and 88% of Gen Z and over 55s respectively agreed – which is good news for a sector that has spent huge amounts on systems and technology to prevent harms across the financial sector, particularly, economic crime.

Even so, these findings may come as a something of a surprise to those who felt the effects of the last financial crash in 2008.

Elsewhere, utilities and telecoms companies scored surprisingly low with just 20% of the over 55s and 14% of younger people – trusting them with personal details – suggesting consumers do not automatically trust historically high-trust sectors online.

Perhaps the most interesting contrast however came with Gen Z, 85% of whom say they trust TV streaming services like Netflix more than they trust their bank. Almost as many (72%) 16-24 year olds also said they trust social media companies, compared to 42% in the over 55 group.

Having grown up in the digital world, its perhaps no great shock that Gen Z trust online messaging, TV streaming and investment services more than they trust government websites.   Despite best efforts, government websites generally do not have the user experience of services targeting the 25s, although such things are not impossible with the right ambition. Equally, most over 55s are unlikely to be sharing the same online space as Gen Z, or for the same amount of time. The inference could therefore be that people most trust the sites they are most familiar with.

Looking at this research in its entirety, you might naturally conclude that banks have got it right when it comes to designing trust and are a positive example to all. But, scratch the surface and the data reveals warnings for the future.

The more liberal approach to online security among the younger generations – 79% of whom admit to sharing login passwords to TV streaming services – is an alarming discovery to anyone who understands the anatomy of a fraud attack. Far from the harmless practice it might appear, sharing logins could be akin to handing fraudsters the key to your data. Small wonder that a significant 40% of young people also admitted to having been scammed online, compared to only 16% in the over 55s, among whom password sharing was far less rife. 

This lack of appreciation of the importance of online security poses a real existential risk to digital security and trust across the whole online ecosystem.

Is Gen Z conflating the familiarity and smooth customer journeys of platforms such as Netflix with ‘trust’?  Is their natural openness to less established brands, which may also be subject to less financial regulation leaving them exposed to fraud?  It seems that a combination of these factors, along with rapid digitalisation, focussed predominantly on commerce as opposed to safety, is creating vulnerability which could impact on all our future trust in such systems.

Greater personal responsibility would undoubtedly help – only 41% of people say they would make a point to change all their passwords if they were scammed, perhaps indicating a false sense of trust in the system to support when things go wrong. The Online Safety Bill and regulation is a good first step – and industry in collaboration with the tech sector, have the potential to use their expertise to ‘design out’ system vulnerability. Yet building trust in systems is also reliant on broader change in societal and human behaviour.   

The future must not simply be an exchange of ‘new for old’. Services (online or physical) will have to simultaneously address the demands and attitudes of all generations, yet also deliver profit and consumer protection.  But that complexity doesn’t require new technology, just a new attitude to the application of technology, including a more open debate about the acceptable use and sharing of information and data.

Despite our best efforts, fraud continues to rise.   Volumes of crime and data are likely to continue to increase and the future will necessitate a very different approach.  As society becomes more aware of the impact of economic crime and hazards associated with the loss of personal data, all sectors will need to collaboratively design solutions that prevent harm occurring.  This starts with understanding that threat enter the system at any given weak point. Fraudsters don’t have to target bank-level security when they can harvest personal data from and individual’s social media or TV streaming accounts, accessed via simple smishing or phishing attacks that persuade victims to part with their hard-earned cash. Building trust across the whole online ecosystem necessitates us finding ways to work together and expedite solutions across the entire system.

Finally, there needs to be greater discussion as to what ‘trust’ means in the future and how we balance smooth customer journeys with relevant protection. Success or failure in this regard will depend on how well businesses embrace data. How we manage, understand, and utilise information and the systems and structures we establish to create better interventions will dictate whether we maintain, increase, or destroy trust. And at all times, we must be cognisant that once trust is broken it is a very expensive commodity to restore.

Karen Baxter