How we make it easy for online scam artists

Survey shows that about half of all Americans will give up personal data for cheap gifts

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Do you know why there are so many scam artists working the Internet? That's right, because there are so many willing marks.

A recent survey of more than 1,800 Americans shows that nearly half of us are perfectly willing to provide personal or financial information over the Internet in exchange for the most trivial of rewards.

The survey was conducted by security vendor PC Tools and the Ponemon Institute. It asked respondents if they would be "likely to provide personal or financial information online" in each of several hypothetical scenarios. Here are the scenarios and the percentage of people who said they would:

An online prize -- 55%
Free antivirus software -- 53%
Get rich quick opportunity -- 53%
Free movie -- 48%
Online shopping registration -- 46%
Online donations -- 31%

OK, people, listen up: If a stranger knocked on your door and offered you free movie tickets in exchange for you providing your date of birth, Social Security number, names of family members and other personal or financial information, would you give it to him? Of course not! Well, this is the same thing. What are you thinking?

The survey also reveals that some demographic groups are more susceptible to online scams than others:

* 18- to 25-year-olds
* Females
* Less than a high school diploma
* Household income of $25,000 to $50,000
* Residents of the Southwest

"The longer-term concern is that while many of us think that we are too savvy for online scams, the research demonstrates otherwise," said Richard Clooke of PC Tools.

Now there's an understatement.

"Unless consumer behavior is addressed through education," Clooke said, "the incidence of cybercriminals seeking to cash in on consumer trust and naivety online is likely to increase exponentially."

Which means, for all the concerns about the economy and its effect on the tech sector, we at least can remain bullish about the online scam industry!

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