‘Online fraud is a societal problem that must also be tackled socially’

What can we learn from people who managed to ward off an attempt at online fraud? Reducing quick decisions and increasing knowledge about fraud has a preventive effect, says researcher Marianne Junger from the University of Twente. The research results are tough: 1 in 6 Dutch people (16%) was a victim of fraud in 2020 – fraud that mainly takes place online. 42% experience a trial. The financial damage is estimated at 2.75 billion euros. Junger argues for a broad social approach – with preventive measures for all sectors. This article first appeared in Bank | Wereld Online, a publication of the Dutch Banking Association.

Marianne Junger is Professor Emeritus of Cyber ​​Security at the University of Twente, with expertise in human factors in cybersecurity. She led the study ‘Fraud Victimization in the Netherlands’, funded by Achmea Slachtoffer & Samenleving (SASS), International Card Services (ICS), the National Police and the Dutch Banking Association.

What exactly has been investigated?

“Together with Prof. Dr. Bernard Veldkamp and Luka Koning (MSc), we sought answers to questions such as: how many people are victims of (attempted) fraud each year, what types of scams (online and / or offline), what is the damage and the impact on people, what is the willingness to report and what can we learn about prevention? We examined all forms of fraud data and also conducted a representative sample of the Dutch population on fraud events in 2020. So we interviewed people who had and who had not been victims of fraud. ”

Why was this research done?

“Simply because there was no overall picture of victims of fraud in the Netherlands. There are, of course, investigations into certain types of crime, such as property crime. Statistics Holland and the police report this, for example. But fraud – where money or personal information is stolen from “Someone – has been greatly neglected. While we see that – although ‘traditional’ physical fraud is declining – online fraud is gaining momentum. Another reason to investigate fraud from the victim’s perspective.”

What picture does your first report of the investigation paint?

“This scam is widespread and diverse in the Netherlands. Scams take place mainly online. 1 in 6 Dutch people (16%) is a victim every year. 42% experience an attempt and the damage per year is estimated at 2.75 billion euros. The losses and the effects of fraud are often small but sometimes very large. Few victims contact the police or other parties, while it is important to keep an eye on fraud. The investigation has not yet been completed: such as the scam attempt: what prevents people from falling for it? ”

What are the main recommendations to reduce the number of victims of online fraud?

In short: to reduce rapid decisions and increase victims’ knowledge of online fraud. For what we found very remarkable: In addition to the high victim rates, the number of trials was also very large. People who managed to fend off a scam attempt seem to recognize the scam as such. For example, they stated that they had looked up information on the Internet during the experiment; while the victims did not have. Or they immediately recognize fraud. So it’s about knowledge. “

“Organizations often have a lot of information about online scams. Information they offer online, but research results argue that this can be done more proactively. This is difficult because of the many types of scams – from spoofing and phishing to What’s App- scams and Marketplace scams – and require efforts from organizations individually. “

Is the above commitment from the individual organizations sufficient?

“A broad national preventive movement would certainly help. Look at the 1980s, for example. Then there was a sharp rise in ‘ordinary crime’, as it was called at the time, such as burglary, shoplifting, car theft and so on. The advice of the House of Representatives Committee for less crime – the Roethof Committee – and the political plan for society and crime led to a broad policy and a genuine ‘preventive movement’. For example, housing associations have been more aware of burglary protection. Car manufacturers improved car safety. Store owners installed gates against shoplifting. Measures that contribute to the (still ongoing) decline in these forms of crime. “

As a researcher, how can you translate these insights into the present?

“In this day and age, scams take place mainly online. It’s more complicated. The chance of becoming a victim had always to some extent had to do with the risks one takes oneself. These risks used to be easier to understand. Everyone understands, that it is wise to lock your house or car when you leave.If you translate it to the online world, it is less clear to people that precautions are also needed.The important thing is that you do not blame people, when things go wrong. But they are reminded of their own responsibility to act wisely when they go online. “

“As for the measures taken by individual organizations or sectors, one can think of reducing prepaid phone cards in the telecommunications sector. They are used to harass people anonymously. The police could better analyze the information provided by the victims. The banks could lower the upper limit of daily transactions In fact, each sector could take a closer look at: When does it go wrong and what can we do about it?

The losses and impact of fraud on victims are often small. But sometimes very large, research showed. What does online fraud do to people?

“The personal impact can be enormous. One respondent stated that she was harassed daily by telephone by persons with different telephone numbers. She did not have a smartphone, so she could not block phone numbers. That lady hardly dared pick up the phone anymore. Some people lose all their savings, which of course is awful. There is now rightly a lot of attention paid to victims of violent and sex crimes. “

“But we should not neglect the role of victims in online fraud. There is a low willingness to report (12%), and this is not only because the amounts involved are often low, perhaps also because people themselves feel responsible: they issue “After all, often the payment order itself. That does not mean that they are cheated and that there is in fact fraud. Fraud that occurs frequently, with high social costs. A societal problem that must also be tackled socially.”

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