Internet users who use rely on “gut instinct” to avoid falling prey to online scams and those with advanced knowledge of financial products are actually more likely to fall victim to cyber criminals, according to surprising research published in the UK by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT).

The OFT, who compiled the report using research from the University of Exeter, claims that those who have a “better than average background knowledge” of investing, lotteries and finance are actually more likely to become the victim of a scam than less knowledgeable users.

The research concluded that those with knowledge of financial products demonstrated a degree of overconfidence in particular subject areas, making them more likely to respond to a scam email.

Those with background knowledge also had a tendency to “read up” on potential scam emails whereas those with “below average” knowledge simply ignored any apparently malicious approaches or used antivirus software to automatically delete so-called ‘phishing‘ emails.

The research, entitled “The psychology of scams: provoking and committing errors of judgement”, also that the typical scam victim was not necessarily a poor decision maker and that many came from successful business backgrounds.

Unsurprisingly, victims often hid their involvement from friends and family.

The most common forms of scam that internet users were faced with included the so-called “Nigerian 419” advance-fee fraud scam, fake foreign lotteries, holiday club and high-risk financial investments.

The OFT published the findings as part of a high-profile campaign against scams, believing that as many as 3.2 million people are being defrauded of about £3.5bn a year.

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