How you feel may just be the determining factor when it comes to scammers getting their hook, line and sinker into you. A first-of-its-kind AARP study takes an in-depth look at what Granite Staters are doing (or not doing) to put themselves at a higher risk for on-line fraud.
The study, Caught in the Scammer’s Net, compared victims and non-victims and details the key online behaviors of Granite Staters age 18 and older that can make them fodder for some very common scams. Becoming a victim of online fraud can be a combination of online behaviors – such as signing up for a free trial offer or clicking on a pop-up – or life experiences – including losing a job.
Based on the national sample of over 11,000, 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); and
- 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 one will be scammed,” according to AARP New Hampshire Associate State Director Jamie Bulen. “But if such online engagement occurs during a vulnerable moment, it can add up to the perfect opportunity for a scammer.”
Over eight in 10 (81%) of Granite State online users say they are concerned about being scammed over the Internet, but were only able to correctly answer half the questions in a simple online literacy test. For example:
- 36% are unaware that banks do not send email to their customers asking them to click on links to verify personal information;
- 57% think a website needs their permission before downloading programs that track online activities; and
- One-fifth has never changed their passwords for personal email accounts or online banking or bill payments (22% and 21% respectively.)
According to Dave Burdette of Concord, a weak password nearly led a scammer to empty his bank account. A crook stole Burdette’s personal information, hacked into his Comcast account, forwarded his phone, and tried to transfer a large sum of money from his bank.
“As a retired bank executive, I should’ve known better,” said Burdette. “You better believe I am now more vigilant with changing my passwords. We need to do more to shine a spotlight on how people can protect themselves from online fraud.”
“This is exactly why we have launched the AARP Fraud Watch Network campaign in New Hampshire,” concluded Bulen. “In New Hampshire, more than 676,000 people received at least one online fraud offer in 2013. This is a growing concern.”
The AARP Fraud Watch Network is free of charge to AARP members, nonmembers, and people of all ages, and provides:
- Watchdog Alert emails that deliver breaking scam information
- Prevention tips based on the latest information from experts
- Interactive map with the latest law enforcement warnings from each state
- Phone number people can call to talk to volunteers 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.
AARP New Hampshire also offers a team of volunteer fraud fighters to give presentations to community groups across the state. Free of charge, requests can be made by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For a copy of the survey, click here: http://www.aarp.org/onlinefraudNH
The GFK Group conducted the Internet-based survey for AARP last November and December. Over 11,000 were surveyed nationally and 818 in New Hampshire. The margin of error was 3.1 percent.