Securing online privacy

March is the Fraud Prevention Month and also a good time to remind people that even if Internet represent a major opportunity for corporate and individuals businesses transactions it also provides opportunities for criminals to target and attack victims in order to scam them. Internet scams aim to defraud victims with scammers applying different methods to steal victims’ private information and trick them into making financial payments The anonymous online environment makes it difficult for users to identify fraudulent enquiries.

In this study, Hongliang Chen and his colleagues tested seven antecedents of the Internet scam victimization (knowledge about internet privacy, willingness to make risky investments, online information disclosure, online shopping, downloading files, online information consumption and opening emails from unknown sources) and addressed how victim experiences influence people’s privacy concerns and subsequent privacy protection behaviors. The current study contributes to the study of Internet privacy by  incorporating Extended Parallel Process Model (EPPM) into the development of the theory. Derived from protection motivation theory (PMT), EPPM explains why high perceived threat fails to predict behavioral changes under certain conditions. The authors also included two theories that are new to research on online privacy- self-control theory and routine activity theory- to explore the antecedents of Internet scam victimization.

The analysis showed that willingness to make risky investments was positively associated with being an Internet scam victim. This result may imply that financially impulsive individuals fail to consider the risks of financial loss. However, contrary to the hypothesis on self-control, knowledge about Internet privacy did not predict being an Internet scam victim. This result may indicate a discrepancy between individuals’ perceptions of privacy risks and actual privacy protection behaviors. Thus, people who are knowledgeable about Internet privacy may not actually adopt protection behaviors but simply believe that they themselves are immune to privacy invasion. Also, being an Internet scam victim was positively predicted by three routine Internet activities: online information disclosure, online shopping, and opening emails from unknown sources. These results are in line with the idea that criminals design individualized information to target and induce victims according to the personal information they disclose online. There was a significant association between being an Internet scam victim and online privacy concerns. People who experience monetary loss of Internet scams are likely to recognize the severity and susceptibility of Internet privacy risks.

Given that knowledge about Internet privacy did not decrease the likelihood of being an Internet scam victim, future research should expand its operational definition of self-control specific to online privacy protection to include other factors, such as Internet efficacy. Future study should employ other common Internet routines such as social media use and online gaming.


Cite: Chen, H., Beaudoin, C. E. and Hong, T. (2017). Securing online privacy: An empirical test on Internet scam victimization, online privacy concerns, and privacy protection behaviors. Computers in Human Behavior, 291-302.