Who’s at risk of falling prey to a scam? Not who you think, study suggests

Young people between 18 and 34 are the most gullible when it comes to banking scams.
Young people between 18 and 34 are the most gullible when it comes to banking scams. Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images

According to a survey conducted by Santander Bank in the U.K., young people aged 18 to 34 are most likely to fall prey to a banking scam by offering up their security details, including personal identification numbers (PIN) and passwords.

Survey results showed that of over 2,000 people polled, 20 per cent of respondents who fell into this age group said they believed their bank would ask them to divulge full security details over the phone or via email, while 16 per cent believed their bank could ask them to transfer cash “for security reasons,” The Telegraph reports.

Sadly, 25 per cent said that they had fallen victim to this sort of dupe, and of them, 17 per cent admitted to sensing something wasn’t right but chose to ignore their instincts. The majority of people who had fallen victim to a scam reported feeling anger after the fact, and a small percentage said that they should have noticed something was amiss in hindsight.

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“Scams can come in many forms and our research highlights how widespread they are,” said Karen Tyler, head of fraud at Santander. “It’s worrying that so many people are unaware of what information a bank will and will not ask for — for example, a bank would never ask you to disclose your full security details.”

READ MORE: How the ‘mystery shopper’ scam fooled a young mother, a factory worker and a senior

The results of this poll are especially surprising considering the elderly are most commonly associated with susceptibility to scams. A small study conducted at the University of California, Los Angeles in 2012 found that older people have less activity in the brain region called the anterior insula, which is linked to disgust and discerning untrustworthy faces. They are also more prone to spending more time on the phone with a stranger to quell isolation and loneliness.

But some experts are pointing to classic characteristics like the arrogance of youth to explain the susceptibility of millennials.

“While very technically sophisticated, millennials are online all the time,” says Kevin Haley, director of security response at Norton. “Because they are so comfortable online and feel the invincibility of the young, they are not as cautious. Over half of millennials believe their personal information is safe when using public WiFi, they’re more likely to engage in activities that expose their personal information over public WiFi, and more than one in four access financial or banking information over public WiFi.”

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To help ensure you don’t fall prey to a scam, Robert Siciliano, CEO of ID Theft Security, advises installing a full suite of antivirus software with anti-phishing detection on your computer, and avoiding clicking links in emails to prevent this kind of thing from happening to you.

Keep an eye out for obvious spam. Signs include emails that aren’t personalized, and ones that threaten legal action or use intimidating language if you don’t act quickly. And never enter information into a pop-up screen or embedded form, as no legitimate company would go about getting your information this way.

READ MORE: Canada Post warns of new email scam

Also be wary of any cold calls from your bank where you’re asked specific details about your account, and educate yourself on their communication procedures.

“Your bank will never email asking for any information,” Siciliano says. “If anything, they generally have an email in their secure server for you to log into for more information.”

Awareness also goes a long way in avoiding a scam, Haley adds. Ask yourself obvious questions like, “Is this unsolicited email suspicious sounding or vague?” If it’s coming from a person or company that you know, ask yourself if the information requested is really something a person would ask.

“Most important is the context in which you’re being asked,” he says. “If you have not gone directly to the bank’s webpage, but rather have been directed there by a link in an email or a pop-up ad, don’t give out your information. Go directly to the site. A bank would never ask you to take a compromising action like sharing your passwords, PIN or card numbers.”

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According to Haley, so far in 2016, Symantec has blocked 157 million fake technical support scams where hackers tried to gain access to peoples’ computers.