New BBB research shows low financial literacy, social isolation increase scam risk

New research shows that people who live alone or have low financial literacy levels are more likely to be scammed, according to the BBB of Dayton and Miami Valley.

The research also shows that the highest engagement and victimization rates involve online purchases and social media.

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During a study, “Exposed to Scams: What Separates Victims from Non-Victims,” given by the BBB Institute for Marketplace Trust, researches surveyed over 1,000 Americans and Canadians who were targeted by scammers and reported the fraud via the BBB Scam Tracker.

Nearly half of those surveyed didn’t engage with the scammer, but nearly a quarter did engage and lost an average of $600.

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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. When exposed to a scam on social media, 91 percent engaged and 53 percent lost money. When exposed to a fraud via website, 81 percent engaged and 50 percent lost money.
  • Consumers were more likely to be victimized if they didn't have anyone to discuss the offer with. Those who engaged scammers and lost money were less likely to be married and more likely to be widowed or divorced. Those who engaged and those who lost money reported significantly higher feelings of loneliness, therefore, social isolation appears to play a role in fraud victimization.
  • The likelihood of victimization is greater for individuals who are under financial strain, are younger adults or have low levels of financial literacy.
  • 51 percent of people who reported a third-party intervention were able to avoid losing money. Cashiers, bank tellers, employees or 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.
  • Prior knowledge of fraud helps decrease the chances of victimization. One-third of consumers who were targeted by a scammer, but didn't engage, already knew about the specific type of scam. Consumers who understood the tactics and behaviors of scammers didn't engage with the fraudsters.

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