Michelle Reed


Tue, 30 Jun, 2015

Older women most at risk of falling victim to internet scams, study finds

Older women most at risk of falling victim to internet scams, study finds

Research conducted by Griffith University and Queensland police has found the most vulnerable group for internet scams is middle-aged women.

The researchers investigated 400 cases of “advanced fee fraud” to get an idea of what made a person send their money to a scammer.

Researcher Jacqueline Drew said the study gave a “clearer picture and more certainty” about the most vulnerable group when it came to internet fraud.

“In particular we see vulnerability for females between about 50 and 60-years-old,” Dr Drew said.

This is the first study of its kind in Australia as it uses real interviews with victims and police, along with data, to investigate scams like business and romance fraud.

Dr Drew said often the victims admitted they had suspicions about the scammers’ requests to send money, but kept making payments.

“Most of them seem to have a moment of questioning whether they should send the money or not,” she said.

“What a lot of them would say to us is that they were willing to take a chance.

“Even though they questioned from the very first time, they were willing to take a chance it would pay off.”

With Australians giving $7 million to scammers every month, the research is set to help set up effective strategies to reduce online fraud.

The research showed that for many victims it wasn’t until they had lost up to

$10,000 to scammers, before they stopped sending them money.

“What we don't know is why $10,000 seems to be a threshold,” Dr Drew said.

“Is it because that's the maximum amount of money people have to lose, or feel comfortable taking the risk to that point?

“Or is that the time when they seriously start to question whether it's a legitimate relationship?"

For the fraudsters, it was often a matter of using a small team of people to help convince their victim that they were legitimate.

“That particularly seemed to occur when the victim started to question the relationship or the legitimacy of what was happening,” Dr Drew said.

“It was a way of trying to shore up the story by the offender saying 'I'll get my lawyer to ring you' or 'I'll get my father to ring you'. Then they would bring in a different range of actors to validate their story.”

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