Most Americans are at risk of 'digital crimes,' security firm warns

Photo (c) MF 3D - Getty Images

AI raises the danger level even higher, suggests one expert

This statistic might want to make you throw your computer or smartphone in the trash can but you need to hear it: A frightening 91% of all Americans are between “moderate to extreme risk” of digital crimes.

And if that number didn’t move you, let’s try this one: Federal Trade Commission (FTC) data show consumers lost nearly $8.8 billion to scams in 2022.

According to a new Digital Crime Index from Aura, a firm engaged in intelligent safety for consumers, not only are few of us safe, but some of us are in even great peril.

Aura’s researchers found that demographics that have become extremely susceptible to digital crimes are Black Americans, women, parents, veterans/active-duty military, and members of the Gen-Z generation.

The data show:

  •  Compared to those without children, parents carry a bigger financial toll from being a victim of a digital crime -- seeing 15 times greater loss with an average of $24,188 lost per incident. And Aura says the finger needs to be pointed at all those devices parents have around the home. On average, parents have three more devices in their home compared to most Americans.

  • Gen-Z faces a significant risk of digital crime compared to other generations surveyed, which rank at high risk. When Gen-Z respondents were asked if they protect themselves from digital crimes, only 52% said yes. Gen-Z’s older sibling Gen-X does the best of the four generations surveyed, with 68% saying they protect themselves digitally.

  • Black Americans are five times more likely than White Americans to be at severe risk of a digital crime.

  • Even though men statistically have more violent crimes committed against them, Aura found women are at an elevated risk of a digital crime and stand to lose 6 times more financially. Perhaps what is most alarming is the difference between the average loss for a woman who falls victim to a digital crime vs. a man. On average, women lose over $10,000 more than men per crime. Just ask Rebecca…

  • One in every two veterans and active-duty service members who have experienced digital crime have been victims of more than one type of digital crime. Most of those were victims of a government data breach, the researchers said.

"There's no question that technology has enabled incredible progress in society and in our individual lives, but by oversharing online and over-trusting our digital interactions we're putting ourselves and our families at extreme risk," said Aura founder & CEO Hari Ravichandran. "In fact, the Index shows that 60% of Americans have already reported being a victim of at least one online crime and that number is growing every day.”

AI could make things worse, too

With all the hoopla surrounding AI – artificial intelligence – that 91% high-water mark could go even higher. In fact, it’s already starting to show its ugly side with more fake job scams starting to emerge.

"Consumers should be aware that as artificial intelligence becomes more sophisticated, it may be used by marketers in ways that put their privacy at risk,” Nicky Watson, founder of Cassie, a pioneer in consent and preference management, told ConsumerAffairs.

She said that AI-powered search engines will be able to gather and share more data about consumers than ever before. And, since no one’s trying to regulate AI, Watson says the prospect of those search engine companies selling large sets of consumer data to other companies could lead to real-world consequences for consumers. 

“For example, imagine a consumer is concerned about a health issue, so they search the issue online and visit websites relating to the condition. If an AI-powered search engine company sells that consumer’s online activity to a health insurance company, data about the consumer could impact the cost of their health insurance premiums,” she suggested.

“Consumers should proceed with caution when using AI tools and they should think about the long-term unintended consequences of how their data could be used against them.”

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