Go online and there are scams everywhere. Some people fall for them, some don't. Why?
A new study by AARP shows that a combination of online behaviors and life experiences can make someone more vulnerable to fraud.
The report, "Caught in the Scammer's Net," found that victims tend to do things that put them at risk, such as clicking on pop-ups, opening emails from people they don't know or signing up for free trial offers. But they're also more likely to be going through a stressful period in their life due to the loss of a job or feeling lonely and isolated.
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Simply put, a negative event in your life can significantly reduce your ability to defend yourself from fraud.
"Signing up for a free trial won't guarantee you'll be scammed, but if you do so during a vulnerable time after you've lost money or lost a job, you may be at a higher risk of being victimized," said AARP Executive Vice President Nancy LeaMond.
Researchers compared the life experiences of victims and nonvictims, based on a nationwide survey of 11,000 adults. They found that online fraud victims have experienced 53 percent more negative life events. They felt more isolated, were twice as likely to have lost a job, worried more about debt and were nearly twice as likely to have experienced a negative change in financial status in the last two years.
Based on its survey, AARP estimates that there are 34 million Internet users who are at higher risk of becoming victims.
"People have to be especially cautious when they've experienced a stressful life event," said Doug Shadel, director of AARP's Washington state office and co-author of this study. "Stress takes up cognitive capacity. You're thinking about the stressful thing. You're not thinking about how to defend yourself against scams, and that makes you vulnerable."
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And the scammers know this and use it to their advantage.