Digital deception: 9 in 10 Americans have been victimized by an online scam

  • Survey reveals that half of Americans would consider living “off the grid” in order to keep their data safe.
  • Despite findings, third of respondents admit they still do not take any precautions when shopping online.

NEW YORK — The digital age we all currently live in has brought with it a unique set of new security worries. Virtually every aspect of life, such as banking, communication, shopping, etc., now takes place online. But, with that convenience also comes the possibility that malicious scammers or hackers may get their hands on your personal and private data. Unsettlingly, a new survey finds that 90% of the 2,000 Americans involved in the research have been a victim of an online scam, fraud, data breach, identity theft, or social media hacking.

According to the survey, which was commissioned by MoneyGram, the most common digital security threat facing Americans today is some type of scam, with 63% of respondents saying they’ve been hoodwinked in this way before. Examples of common online scams include fake romantic requests or fake offers leading the victim to transfer money to someone they don’t know.

Additionally, 56% said they’ve been the victim of fraud, and 54% said they’ve had their social media account hacked. Nearly half of the respondents (49%) have been the victim of a data breach.

These numbers may seem high, but consider this: many respondents admitted they engage in risky online behaviors. For instance, 10% said they would actually answer a phone call from an unknown number or an email from an unknown origin. Another one in eight said they would respond to romantic requests online from someone they’ve never met. One in nine even said they would respond to a job offer from a firm they’ve never applied to, especially if the email had a nearly, but not quite, identical name to a famous, global company.

It’s clear that many Americans are tired of worrying about their online accounts. In fact, 50% of those surveyed said they would consider living off the grid to make sure their data is safe.

Participants were also quizzed on common digital security red flags. In all, 48% recognized the common scam of being asked to wire money to a stranger. Another 47% are correctly wary of whenever someone asks for money with the promise of an even larger sum in return at a later date. Finally, 44% said they are never fooled by a phone call from a fake government agency asking for money to avoid jail time.

“As valuable as our money transfer services are to the world, without proper controls they can unfortunately be used for harmful purposes,” says MoneyGram chief operating officer Kamila Chytil in a statement. “Increased internet usage, sharing our lives on social media and the growth of non-face-to-face interactions are just a few factors that put consumers at risk and make it more important for financial services providers to help protect and educate our customers.”

When asked about their biggest online security worries, respondents listed having their personal information exposed in a data breach as their most frequent concern (53%), followed by having money stolen from their online bank accounts or an online money management tool (52%), and having their social security number stolen (52%).

The top five online fears were rounded out with malware designed to infiltrate online banks (50%), and fraud (47%).

Surprisingly, despite all of these worries, a full third of respondents said they haven’t taken any precautions to protect themselves while shopping online.

If you’re looking for ways to protect your data, the most common ways listed by respondents to beef up online security were: keeping passwords private (59%), using a third party to protect online data (55%), and never clicking phishing emails (53%). Avoiding being too active on social media (51%) and using security software (49%) were other popular security measures.

The survey was conducted by OnePoll.

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About the Author

Ben Renner

Writer, editor, curator, and social media manager based in Denver, Colorado. View my writing at

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