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Why do we keep getting that Nigerian money scam email?  Who could possibly fall for it?  One would think that by now, the gig wouldn’t work – people would be on to it – and those pesky spammers would move on to another scam.  But alas, somebody out there must be falling for it.  A recent national telephone survey by the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania reveals some startling statistics about gullibility in all its splendor:

49% could not detect illegal “phishing”—the activity where crooks posing as banks send emails to consumers that ask them to click on a link wanting them to verify their account.

Phishing is not really all that new.  It’s just con-artistry in the digital age.  Other studies reveal that offline, people are just as gullible.  According to an article in The New York Times:

Alas, we appear to be no better equipped in the real world. In a survey conducted alongside the Infosecurity Europe trade show earlier this year, more than 90 percent of roughly 200 people approached on the street were duped into giving away enough information to steal their identities – all for the chance at winning some theater tickets.

We often hear the refrain that people must be more careful with their personal data, and we like to think we’re above being duped.  After all, one has to be really dumb to fall for these scams, right?  Perhaps not, if these studies are correct.  So next time you fall for the email from the eBay billing department that says you need to re-enter your membership data in order to prevent the termination of your account . . . well . . . it appears you’re not alone.  Oh, and by the way, please don’t forget to wire $1000 to our PrawfsBlawg bank account in the Cayman Islands.  We promise that if you do,  we’ll get very rich.

Originally posted at PrawfsBlawg


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This post was authored by Professor Daniel J. Solove, who through TeachPrivacy develops computer-based privacy training, data security training, HIPAA training, and many other forms of awareness training on privacy and security topics. Professor Solove also posts at his blog at LinkedIn. His blog has more than 1 million followers.

Professor Solove is the organizer, along with Paul Schwartz, of the Privacy + Security Forum and International Privacy + Security Forum, annual events designed for seasoned professionals.

If you are interested in privacy and data security issues, there are many great ways Professor Solove can help you stay informed:
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