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 988 in Georgia. 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.
“Just as a weakened immune system lowers your resistance to disease, negative life events lower your resistance to fraud,” said AARP Executive Vice President Nancy LeaMond. “That’s when doing something risky online could put you right where a scammer wants you.”
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, 19 percent – or as many as 34 million Internet users – have also demonstrated at least seven key risk factors and therefore may be at high risk of victimization.
- One in four (25%) Georgia adults who access the internet, or as many as 1.3 million people, engage in at least 7 of the 15 behaviors or experience life events that may put them at increased risk of being victimized by online fraud.
- Seven in 10 (71%) Georgia adults that access the Internet, or as many as 3.9 million people, received at least one online fraud offer in 2013.
- Although 80% of Georgia adults surveyed said they are concerned about being scammed over the Internet, they correctly answered only 5.10 out of 10 questions designed to test their knowledge about how to be safe online.
LeaMond noted that according to one research report on identify theft more than $20 billion was stolen from 13 million victims in 2012. The Federal Trade Commission has reported that online scams doubled from just over 20 percent of all fraud in 2007 to nearly 40 percent in 2011.
The study was released recently in conjunction with the announcement of the establishment of the AARP Fraud Watch Network, a national campaign to fight fraud and identity theft and give Americans access to information about how to protect themselves and their families.
“That’s why AARP launched the Fraud Watch Network – to connect people to experts, law enforcement, and people like them who can help them spot and avoid scams,” added LeaMond. “We’re arming people with information about what makes them vulnerable and giving them access to the tools they need to outsmart con artists before they strike.”
Available free of charge to AARP members and non-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 that are trained to help fraud victims
- Access to a network of people who are sharing their experiences with scams so they can help others protect themselves