Web scammers target depressed

AARP releases survey showing the online risks of becoming a scam victim

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Fighting off online scammers has been a challenge for internet users and for law enforcement.

Now, a new survey says the people who are at greatest risk of being scammed online, are those who are depressed and who have lost their job.

The American Association of Retired Persons released this survey this week. The co-author says it's the strongest finding of how life experiences can affect the risk you run of becoming a victim.

Logging onto a computer and surfing the web using some sort of device has become a daily thing for many of us.

But there are risks and a new survey shows that common online activities can make you vulnerable to online scams.

"I think two words really drive this kind of propensity for online scamming and that is the lack of impulse control. This inability to control impulses to click on that add to respond right away to that message that says you just won 5 million dollars, send us your bank details." Said Dr. Tracy Alloway who is an assistant professor of psychology. 

The AARP gave a survey to 12,000 people to find out how many risky behaviors they engage in before becoming a victim and it found:

  • Opening an email from unknown sources
  • clicking on pop-up ads
  • selling items through auction sites such as eBay
  • buying through online payment transfer sites
  • visiting websites that require reading a privacy policy or terms of agreement and being impulsive

The survey also found that depression, feelings of isolation, negative financial status and being worried about debt make you more vulnerable to online scams.

Dr. Alloway closely studies working memory.  She even co-authored a book about it recently and said that it goes hand in hand with what  the problem seems to be.

"The individuals here who have poor impulse control, poor working memory, they tend to continually have a pattern of negative behaviors and they're not actually focusing on those behaviors and thinking why is that going wrong instead proactively thinking how can i change that pattern."

Dr. Alloway said that impulse behaviors start early and these computers are  such an integral part of everything these days. She suggests teaching children now about weighing the consequences of bad decisions so it doesn't become automatic as they get older.

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