Tool measures individuals’ likelihood to fall for internet scams

The questions in StP-II fall into 10 categories, measuring different traits which might make people more susceptible to fraud: the ability to premeditate, consistency, sensation seeking, self-control, social influence, need for similarity, attitude towards risk, attitude towards advertising, cognition and uniqueness. Participants are given a score out of seven in each of the ten areas.

Using a large data set obtained from a collaboration with the BBC, the researchers found that the strongest predictor was the ability to premeditate: individuals who fail to consider the possible consequences of a particular action are more likely to engage with a fraudster. However, they found that the likelihood of falling for one of the measured categories of Internet fraud is partially explained by at least one of the mechanisms in StP-II.

“Over the past ten years, crime, like everything else, has moved online,” said co-author Professor Ross Anderson, also from Cambridge’s Department of Computer Science. “This year, about a million UK households will be the victim of typical household crime, such as burglary, where the average victim is an elderly working-class woman. However, now 2.5 million households will be the victims of an online or electronic scam, where the victims are younger and more educated. Crime is moving upmarket.”

“Scams have been around for hundreds of years, and over the centuries, they haven’t really changed that much – the only difference now is with the internet, it requires a lot less effort to do it,” said Modic.

The researchers say that despite the changing demographics of crime victims, there isn’t a ‘typical victim of cybercrime. “Older generations might be seen as less internet-savvy, but younger generations are both more exposed to scams and might be seen as more impulsive,” said co-author Jussi Palomӓki, from the University of Helsinkis Cognitive Science Unit. There isnt a specific age range there are many different risk factors.”

“The immediate benefit of StP-II is that people will get an indication of the sorts of things they should look out for – I’m not saying it’s a sure-fire way that they will not be scammed, but there are things they should be aware of,” said Modic. “StP-II doesn’t just measure how likely you are to fall for scams, it’s how likely you are to change your behaviour.”

— Read more in David Modic et al., “We will make you like our research: The development of a susceptibility-to-persuasion scale,” PLOS One (15 March 2018) (doi: org/10.1371/journal.pone.0194119); and see Ross Anderson’s blog on the paper