Are You A Prime Target For Online Scams? A Fifth of Washington Adults Are, Says Report

Mar 5, 2014

More than one in five Washington adults are at high risk of falling prey to online scams, according to new research funded by the AARP.

Few would be surprised to hear that clicking on pop-up ads or opening emails from unfamiliar sources increases your risk of getting ripped off. But the AARP report, based on a survey of more than 11,000 adults nationwide, also identified some less obvious risk factors.

Having recently lost a job, feeling lonely or isolated and going through financial setbacks are all linked with being victimized by online fraud. Washington state director Doug Shadel compared it to having a weakened immune system. Those life events, he says, make us less able to ward off disease — or, in this case, scams.

“There are scams all over the Internet, scams all over the marketplace, and most of the time, we are able to resist. But if your resistance is low because you’ve experienced one of these life events, if you’ve experienced stress, we think that may contribute to vulnerability,” said Shadel.

One factor that does not seem to correlate with online victimization is being elderly. Shadel said seniors are more at risk for certain kinds of schemes, such as lottery cons, but victims online actually tended to be a little younger than non-victims.

In Washington, 22 percent, or nearly a million people, match the typical fraud victim on a scale of risk factors. Shadel says the new profile could help better target prevention efforts.