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How Likely are You to be an Online Fraud Victim?

PHOTO: A new AARP study finds certain behaviors and life experiences increase the risk of being an Internet fraud victim. AARP-Arizona’s Cynthia Fagyas says changing your password on email and financial accounts is one easy defense. CREDIT: AARP Arizona.
PHOTO: A new AARP study finds certain behaviors and life experiences increase the risk of being an Internet fraud victim. AARP-Arizona’s Cynthia Fagyas says changing your password on email and financial accounts is one easy defense. CREDIT: AARP Arizona.
March 11, 2014

PHOENIX - Your risk of being victimized by online fraud could depend on certain behaviors and the amount of negative stress in your life. That's the conclusion of a new report from AARP that profiles the kinds of people who may be most vulnerable to Internet scams.

According to AARP Arizona spokeswoman Cynthia Fagyas, the survey examined 15 key behaviors and life experiences that could increase a person's susceptibility to being ripped off.

"Clicking on pop-ups; we've all seen those pop-ups come up on our screens. We're all enticed to open an email from somebody we don't know. Signing up for free, limited-time trial offers is also a somewhat risky behavior," are things to avoid, she said.

The AARP survey also found that online fraud victims had experienced 53 percent more negative life events, such as losing a job, financial hardship and feelings of isolation, than people who hadn't fallen for scams.

Nine Arizonans in ten say they're concerned about giving personal or financial information over the Internet, yet Fagyas said the report finds that nearly a fourth of them neglect a simple security step.

"They don't change their passwords very often," she said. "That's something that could help prevent an online fraud or scam from occurring."

And while nearly 80 percent of Arizonans said they worry about being scammed on the Internet, Fagyas said, half of that group held mistaken beliefs about how things work in the online world.

"Banks do not send e-mails to their customers asking them to click on a link to verify personal information," she pointed out. "Also, Arizonans are generally unaware that a privacy policy doesn't always mean the website will not share their information with other companies."

To help reduce the problem, Fagyas said, AARP has created a Fraud Watch Network where experts, law enforcement and ordinary Arizonans share information.

"If you sign up to be part of the network, you can receive alerts about scams that are active in your particular area."

The AARP online fraud survey interviewed more than 11,000 people nationally, including 962 in Arizona.

The study is at AARP.org.

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ