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The Most Likely Victims of Online Fraud

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A new AARP study identifies an online victim profile based on 15 key behaviors and life experiences that increase a person’s vulnerability to online fraud. The report, “Caught in the Scammer’s Net,” surveyed over 11,000 people nationally and 811 in the state of Idaho. According to the survey, 31 percent of Internet users in Idaho may be at increased risk of being victimized based on this new profile.

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% of victims and 17% of non-victims said they had done so in the previous seven days;
  • Clicking on pop-up ads - 26% of victims and 10% of non-victims said they had done so in the previous seven days;
  • Signing up for free trial offers - 18% of victims and 8% of non-victims had done so in the previous week.


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

  • Loss of a job (23% of victims, 10% of non-victims);
  • Reports of often or sometimes feeling isolated (66% of victims, 42% of non-victims);
  • Being concerned about debt (69% of victims, 57% of non-victims);
  • Experienced a negative change in financial status (44% of victims and 23% 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 someone will be a victim of fraud,” said AARP Idaho State Director Mark Estess. “However, if a person’s online activity occurs during moments of vulnerability it can add up to the perfect opportunity for a con-artist. For instance, if a person just lost their job or is going through a divorce or involved in other stressful events they are often more susceptible to scams.”

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, more than 290,000 Idahoans have demonstrated at least seven key risk factors and therefore may be at high risk of victimization.

The survey also showed that while the vast majority of Idaho online users (83%) say they are concerned about being scammed over the internet, they were only able to correctly answer five of the ten questions in a simple online literacy test designed to test their knowledge about how to be safe online. For instance, 27% of Idaho respondents are unaware that a privacy policy does not always mean the website will not share information with other companies.

Other survey results included:

  • 76% of Idaho adults that access the Internet – or as many 711,821 people – received at least one online fraud offer in 2013.
  • 83% of Idahoans say they are concerned about providing personal information over the internet. However, 22% of these respondents with personal email accounts say they have never changed their password for that/those accounts. Likewise, 19% of these respondents say they never change their password for accounts that include sensitive information like online banking or bill payments.


It should also be 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.

For a copy of the survey, click here:  ID STATE REPORT

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