The kicker: Nearly 1 in 5 American adults — roughly 34 million
people — engage in at least seven of them.
findings are pooled from detailed surveys of more than 11,000 adults
across the U.S., comparing the online actions, behaviors and life
experiences of fraud victims and non-victims — and providing a
detailed "profile" of those who are most vulnerable to
In the past seven days before being surveyed, respondents
Opened by 26 percent of victims, compared
with 10 percent of non-victims, pop-ups are often used to
install computer malware or lead to surveys that glean personal
Opening email from
unknown sources: 27 percent of victims versus 17 percent of
non-victims risked similar malware and detail-seeking phishing
39 percent versus 28 percent. Yet another method used to install
malware to steal computer files, passwords and accounts.
23 percent versus 7 percent.
Scammers pose as buyers, paying with counterfeit checks or money
orders — often for higher amounts than the sale price, with a
request to send back the difference.
on online auction sites:
47 percent versus
30 percent. When using these services, link them to a credit
card, which offers more protection against fraud. There's more
risk linking to a checking or debit card account, because if
those systems are hacked, or someone gets your payment transfer
information, your bank account is exposed to the scammer.
product through a money payment business:
18 percent versus 8 percent engaged in these traps, which lock
buyers into hard-to-cancel contracts — and merchandise may not
arrive until after the trial ends.
Signing up for "free trial" offers:
Additionally, victims scored higher on several indicators of
acting impulsively and admitted to posting more personal
information online, such as birth dates, marital status, names of
children and even Social Security numbers, that could be used for
identity theft. They were also more likely to visit websites that
required them to read privacy and terms of agreement statements
— significant because those sites often require providing personal
[to top of second
Confirming previous research, the AARP report found that feeling
vulnerable increases fraud vulnerability. So be extra careful when
making decisions online (or in person). And take note, friends and
family members, if loved ones are experiencing any of the following:
reported by 2 in 3 victims, compared with a
minority of non-victims.
Loss of a job:
23 percent versus 10 percent.
Negative change in
financial status: 44 percent versus 23 percent.
Being concerned about debt: 69
percent versus 57 percent.
Other factors that increase vulnerability risk: stress about
moving, personal or family illness, the death of a loved one,
relationship issues, and going through a divorce (which tripled the
risk). Previous research shows that those 65 and older are most
vulnerable to any type of scam within three years of such traumatic
When asked several questions about Internet safety, neither
victims nor non-victims scored particularly well. But on two
specific issues, victims were significantly less likely to answer
correctly than non-victims:
Nearly 2 in
3 victims, compared with 38 percent of non-victims, believe that
banks do this, but it's a common ruse by scammers to download
malware or collect details for likely identity theft.
Being unaware that a website's privacy
policy does not mean the site will not share information from
users. Roughly half of non-victims, compared with 40 percent
of victims, were aware that information can be shared. However,
such information may be sold either to legitimate vendors or to
scammers posing as such, and used to compile "sucker lists" to
identify possible future victims.