If you live alone, aren’t financially savvy and like to shop online and engage in social media, watch out.
Scammers may have you in their sights.
New research shows that people who fit that scenario are more likely to lose money to fraudsters. The research shows the highest engagement and victimization rates involve online purchases and social media – outpacing telephone, mail and email fraud.
The research should also be a heads-up for those who have a friend or family member who is at risk.
The report, “Exposed to Scams: What Separates Victims from Non-Victims,” comes from the Better Business Bureau Institute for Marketplace Trust, the FINRA Investor Education Foundation, and the Stamford Center on Longevity.
During the study, researchers surveyed more than 1,400 Americans and Canadians who were targeted by scammers and reported the fraud to the Better Business Bureau via BBB Scam Tracker.
Nearly half of those surveyed did not engage with the fraudster. However, nearly a quarter did, losing an average of $600.
Some key findings of the research include:
When phone and email were used by scammers to target consumers, relatively few consumers engaged with the scammer or lost money. However, when exposed to a scam on social media, 91 percent engaged and 53 percent lost money. Similarly, 81 percent of consumers who were exposed to a fraud via a website said they engaged and 50 percent lost money.
Consumers were more likely to be victimized if they did not have anyone to discuss the offer with. Consequently, those who engaged scammers and lost money were less likely to be married and more likely to be widowed or divorced. Generally, those who engaged, and those who lost money, reported significantly higher feelings of loneliness. Social isolation appears to play a role in fraud victimization.
The likelihood of victimization for this sample is greater for individuals who are under financial strain, are younger adults, or have low levels of financial literacy.
Research showed that 51 percent of people who reported a third-party intervention were able to avoid losing money. Cashiers, bank tellers, employees of wire transfer services and other financial services companies where consumers were about to send money to a scammer, served as an important last line of defense.
Nearly half of those surveyed said the news media was their primary source of information about scams. Word of mouth was the next best form of protection and awareness.
So what can consumers do to protect themselves from these scams? The BBB offers this advice:
Ask for input from others. Scammers try to isolate their victims. Don’t be afraid to contact a friend, or a company or organization you trust for advice.
Knowledge is power. The top three reasons people fall for a scam are 1. The scammer seemed official. 2. The victim was under time pressure. 3. The victim thought the person was nice. Knowing about scams and scammer tactics can be a person’s best defense in successfully reducing the impact of scams. Those who heard about the scam before they were targeted were significantly less likely to lose money (9% vs. 34%).
Trust your instincts. A sense that “something is not right” should encourage people to stop, walk away, and investigate further independently.
Focus on your financial health and literacy. Individuals under financial strain and those with lower levels of financial literacy may be more susceptible to scammers. Specific risk-factors include: Household income of $50,000 per year and below. Spending more per month than one’s earnings, not saving money, and having significant amounts of debt. Feeling compelled to “catch up” or “get ahead” financially.