You may think that you are too sophisticated, knowledgeable and careful to be taken in by an internet scam, or phishing attempt. But research shows that it’s not just the “little old lady” or the “newbie” who is taken in by internet fraud.
The National Internet Fraud Watch Information Center reports that only 8% of victims are over 60 years of age. Almost three-fourths of victims are ages 20-50, the people who do much of their business on line. Out of the general population 7% of all people have been a victim of internet fraud. That’s 1 out of 15!
The top scams of the first decade of the 21st Century are familiar to most of us. They are:
- the Nigerian monarch who needs to transfer funds and has chosen you to help him
- the offer to send you a Russian Bride, if you will only provide money for transportation and papers
- fake lotteries
- fake job offers and get-rich-quick schemes
- the friend who is stranded overseas and needs you to wire them money- the first time I saw this one I made a phone call to check on where my friend was
- the claim that someone overpaid you and they just want some small balance returned- online sellers are easy victims of this one.
However, beating out all of these more obvious scams, is an old “friend.” A full 74% of online fraud consists of ordered goods being misrepresented or not being delivered. Auction sites are more guilty of this, but general merchandise sites are not far behind.
The next most successful scam, believe it or not, is that Nigerian (or other country’s) monarch. It’s so successful that it has it’s own code– a 419 scam– so named for the Nigerian criminal statute number.
Well, we might be smart enough to not fall for that one, but many intelligent people have, in a moment of carelessness, given away important personal information. TV news anchorwoman, Contessa Brewer admits to being scammed; businessmen, regular people like you and me, are being trapped all the time. One of the most successful phishing ploys is to present a page full of official logos from a place like eBay or a bank. This arrives in your email with an urgent message: “Warning, your account has been compromised. Please click here and confirm your identity.”
Still, you think, “I wouldn’t DO that.” Many intelligent people have. The University of Exeter (England) has studied the phenomenon, and looked for key elements of who is as risk. While those who have compromised cognitive abilities are on the list, they found that, quite often, normal, careful, professional people fall for phishing scams.
People’s self-control systems are compromised when they are stressed, rushed, tired, emotionally drained, etc. People see a form that looks official, they react, fill it in, click.... and just that quickly they’ve given away important confidential information. And they can’t get it back.
Strangely enough, many people who are careful with finances fall for investment scams. They study the information carefully and decide to take a chance. Exeter says that those most at risk in this case are people who are regular investors who also are inclined to be loners (they don’t ask someone else for advice), and who tend to make impulsive decisions.
So, if you haven’t yet been scammed, you should probably humbly thank your lucky stars, and be even more vigilant. Don’t react to anything on the internet too quickly. Check out sites, sellers, and emails for authenticity and reliability. Watch for similar, but not quite the same URL’s (example: therealsite.com vs. therealsites.com). Financial institutions will never, ever ask for personal information via an email or form. Ask someone else for advice before committing a large sum of money to any investment.
And, always remember, there’s another scam just around every corner.
Read tips to avoid scams from the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team