Cybercrime victims are not “thick, stupid or greedy”

Optimistic and kind-natured people are more likely to fall victim to cybercrime than those who are greedy and materialistic, according to an organisation set up to help victims of e-crime.

Cybercrime victims are not

E-Victims says that cybercrime is a growing problem because criminals are getting more sophisticated and manipulative.

“So many victims get labelled as thick, stupid or greedy, and really, although sometimes you think they should pick up clues, there are a lot of reasons why they don’t,” Jennifer Perry, managing director at E-Victims, told PC Pro.

Online dating scams, where a criminal deceives victims by feigning an emotional bond before asking for money, are common. Perry says this is because although people often suspect that they’re being scammed, they don’t really believe it because they’ve invested time and effort into this individual online.

In other cases, English is the victim’s second language, so they don’t pick up the clues of a poorly written email that would make native English speakers wary.

And in some cases, particularly with young people, victims aren’t used to encountering people with malicious intent, and are therefore easily taken in by official-looking logos and job titles that scammers use in their emails.

A professor in psychology also dispelled the notion that victims of cybercrime are materialistic and opportunistic.

“Greedy people tend to be more calculating, while someone who falls for the scam is more helpful or optimistic,” says Dr Ken Cramer from the University of Windsor in Canada.

While kindly people could easily fall for a charity scam, optimistic people will fall for a scam that most people would realise is too good to be true.

“There is always that one person, who says: ‘If I don’t reply, I may be missing out’. Their optimism is similar to those people who frequent racetracks, they’re waiting for the big win,” says Cramer.

Disaster scams

Perry says people often don’t realise that scammers are professional criminals who know how to manipulate people. “As soon as there is a catastrophe, such as cholera in Zimbabwe or conflict in Gaza, within hours, there will be scams run by criminals trying to get charity for those causes,” she says.

In such cases, criminals use fake charity registration numbers and logos to make their scam emails more convincing. People who respond to these emails are often inundated with follow-up mails, before the scammers begin to turn nasty.

“They start off trying to manipulate you and then they become intimidating and threatening,” says Perry. “Some people will pay just because they’re frightened.”

The London Fraud reporting site, due to be launched in June 2009, will relay figures relating to cybercrime losses to the UK government and law enforcement agencies. Perry hopes that seeing concrete evidence of money loss will provoke the Government to step up its efforts to clamp down on e-crime.

“One of the things that we need to recognise is just how big the problem is and currently there’s no statistics reported on that,” she says. “When the Government start to see how big the problem is, it will take it more seriously because it’ll be able to quantify it.”

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