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New AARP report profiles most likely victims of online fraud

 Arkansans may be at higher risk based on behavior and life experience; AARP Fraud Watch Network designed to help educate & empower consumers

 LITTLE ROCK—An AARP study released today identifies an online victim profile based on 15 key behaviors and life experiences that increase a person’s vulnerability to online fraud. 

 The study follows initiation of the AARP Fraud Watch Network to help educate Americans about various forms of fraud including online scams and empower them to get accurate information on how not to get scammed.

 Caught in the Scammer’s Net, the survey released today, surveyed over 11,000 people nationally and 826 people in Arkansas. According to the survey analysis, 31 percent of Internet users in Arkansas may be at increased risk of being victimized based on this new profile. Nationally, the study found that 19 percent of Internet users may be at increased risk of being victimized based on the new profile.

 The Arkansas survey is available at www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/info-2014/internet-fraud-victimization-attitudes-behavior-arkansas.html This page also includes a link to the national study.

 The national study, which compared victims and non-victims, finds that it is the combination of online behaviors and life experiences that put a person at the greatest risk of being scammed.

Based on the national sample, victims were more likely to engage in online behaviors such as: 

  • Opening email from unknown sources – 27 percent of victims vs. 17 percent of non-victims said they had done so in the previous seven days;
  • Clicking on pop-up ads – 26 percent of victims vs. 10 percent of non-victims said they had done so in the previous seven days;
  • Signing up for free trial offers – 18 percent of victims vs. 8 percent of non-victims had done so in the previous week.

 But victims in the national sample were also found to have experienced 53 percent more negative life events or stressors such as: 

  • Loss of a job (23 percent of victims vs. 10 percent of non-victims);
  • Reports of often or sometimes feeling isolated (66 percent of victims vs.  42 percent of non-victims);
  • Being concerned about debt (69 percent of victims vs.  57 percent of non-victims);
  • Experienced a negative change in financial status (44 percent of victims vs.  23 percent of non-victims report experience in the past two years).

 “Clicking on a pop-up or signing up for a free trial offer, by itself, does not guarantee one will be scammed,” said Michael Rowett, Associate State Director-Communications for AARP Arkansas. “But if such online engagement occurs during a vulnerable moment when you’re feeling lonely or have just lost your job, it can add up to the perfect opportunity for a scammer.”

 When comparing the differences between victims of online fraud with non-victims, victims were found to be involved with an average of seven of the key risk factors.  According to the survey, 489,469 Arkansans (31 percent of the state’s Internet users, as noted above) have demonstrated at least seven key risk factors and therefore may be at high risk of victimization.

 “Just as a weakened immune system lowers your resistance to disease, negative life experiences lower your resistance to fraud,” Rowett said. “That’s when doing something risky online puts you right where the scammer wants you.”

 The survey also showed that while the vast majority of Arkansas online users (82 percent) say they are concerned about being scammed over the internet, they were only able to correctly answer an average of 5.17 of the 10 questions in a simple online test designed to test their knowledge about how to be safe online. Arkansas’ average was higher than the overall national average of 4.66 out of 10 questions.

 For instance, 56 percent of Arkansas respondents are unaware that a privacy policy does not always mean the website will not share information with other companies. Also, 71 percent believe (incorrectly) that by law, a site that compares prices of certain products or services needs to include the lowest price of that product or service.

 Other survey results included: 

  • Nearly 75 percent of Arkansas adults that access the Internet – or as many as 1.1 million people – received at least one online fraud offer in 2013. 
  • An overwhelming 91 percent of Arkansas online users say they are concerned about providing personal information over the internet.  However, 30 percent of Arkansas respondents with personal email accounts say they have never changed their password for that/those accounts. Likewise, 28 percent of these respondents say they never change their password for accounts that include sensitive information like online banking or bill payments. 

 Rowett also noted that according to the Federal Trade Commission, reports of consumer fraud have increased by over 60 percent since 2008 and online scams doubled from just over 20 percent of all fraud in 2007 to nearly 40 percent of all fraud in 2011.

 The AARP Fraud Watch Network connects people to experts, law enforcement and Arkansans who are spotting fraud and sharing their experiences so others know what to watch out for.  Available free of charge to AARP non-members and members alike, and people of any age, the Fraud Watch Network provides:

  • Watchdog Alert emails that deliver breaking scam information,
  • Prevention tips based on the latest information from experts,
  • An interactive map with the latest law enforcement warnings from each state,
  • A phone number people can call to talk to volunteers trained to help fraud victims, and
  • Access to a network of people who are sharing their experiences with scams so they can help others protect themselves.

The GFK Group conducted the Internet-based survey for AARP last November and December.  The margin of error was plus or minus 3.1 percent. The Arkansas survey had a margin of error of plus or minus 5.7 percent.

 AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, with a membership of nearly 38 million, that helps people turn their goals and dreams into real possibilities, strengthens communities and fights for the issues that matter most to families such as healthcare, employment and income security, retirement planning, affordable utilities and protection from financial abuse. We advocate for individuals in the marketplace by selecting products and services of high quality and value to carry the AARP name as well as help our members obtain discounts on a wide range of products, travel, and services.  A trusted source for lifestyle tips, news and educational information, AARP produces AARP The Magazine, the world’s largest circulation magazine; AARP Bulletin; www.aarp.org; AARP TV & Radio; AARP Books; and AARP en Español, a Spanish-language website addressing the interests and needs of Hispanics. AARP does not endorse candidates for public office or make contributions to political campaigns or candidates.  The AARP Foundation is an affiliated charity that provides security, protection, and empowerment to older persons in need with support from thousands of volunteers, donors, and sponsors. AARP has staffed offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Learn more at www.aarp.org.​