Online scam susceptibility of American consumers

PC Tools, in collaboration with the Ponemon Institute, announced the findings of its online scam susceptibility study of 1,858 American consumers. The results of the survey show a clear difference between respondents’ attitudes and predicted behaviors when presented with real-world online scenarios.

The following results show that disturbingly, close to half of US respondents think that they would be likely to provide personal or financial information online in each of the test scenarios presented:

While first and third person constructs were tested to minimize the potential “halo effect” that occurs when asking respondents to rate themselves, US respondents indicated they were equally as likely as their friend to provide personal and financial information online in each of the tested scenarios.

This is in contrast to respondents in the UK and Australia who indicated that they thought their friend was more likely to provide personal and financial information online in each of the tested scenarios

“We generally find that when people are answering for others they are more inclined to reveal their true behavior, or in this case their susceptibility. Interestingly, the survey results from all three regions demonstrate that US respondents are more susceptible than either UK or Australian respondents for both the first and third person constructs,” said Richard Clooke, Online Security Expert, PC Tools.

The survey results also indicate that certain demographic groups are more susceptible than others. For example, respondents who indicated they are Independent supporters are the most susceptible to online scams, while supporters from the Green Party are the least. Regionally, respondents who indicated they are from the Southwest are the most susceptible, while respondents from the Midwest and Pacific are the least.

The survey results also indicated that respondents from the following demographics are more susceptible to online scams:

  • 18-25 year olds
  • Females
  • Less than a high school diploma
  • Household income of $25,000 – $50,000
  • Reside in the Southwest.

“The longer term concern is that while many of us think that we are too savvy for online scams, the research demonstrates otherwise. Unless consumer behavior is addressed through education, the incidence of cybercriminals seeking to cash in on consumer trust and naivety online is likely to increase exponentially,” said Clooke.

Unfortunately, many consumers don’t realize that some online scams don’t involve malware. Traditional internet security is essential to maintain protection against viruses or malicious files and websites, but cybercriminals are changing their methods by tricking consumers into revealing their personal information, so this requires a very different protection approach.

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