Not Everyone Is a Target: An Analysis of Online Identity Crime Victimization Using Routine Activities Theory
This study examines online identity theft, consumer fraud and phishing victimization using data from a national survey of Canadians. The goal is to answer the following questions: (1) Is everyone equally likely to be a target of online crime? and (2) What factors might lead to online victimization? This research utilizes Routine Activity Theory (Cohen and Felson 1979) and an extension proposed by Eck and Clarke (2003). This approach specifies that crime is facilitated by an offender’s motivation, the absence of effective guardians, and the availability of suitable targets online. This research draws on the 2009 General Social Survey (GSS). Logistic regression is used to analyze the relationships between demographic variables, perceptions of risk and online routine activities on identity theft, consumer fraud, and phishing victimization. Findings reveal that education has a consistent effect on all three types of victimization when taking into account routine activities. Men are less likely to change passwords regularly and to delete emails on a regular basis compared with women. Men, compared with women, are also more likely to be victims of consumer fraud and phishing. Results show that perceptions of risk are correlated with victimization. Several forms of routine activities (using the internet for banking, making reservations or bookings, and belonging to online social network websites) increase all three types of victimization. In addition, using the internet for purchasing goods or services or using online chat services increases victimization for consumer fraud and phishing. The results also reveal that those who deal with known websites, enter misleading information online, regularly change their passwords and delete emails are more likely to be victims of online consumer fraud and phishing. This could be explained by other ‘risky’ online activities that moderate relationships. Findings provide support for Routine Activities Theory as an explanation for online identity theft, consumer fraud, and phishing victimization. Further research should explore additional causes, such as ‘risky’ online activities that lead to online victimization. Research should also focus on prevention measures aimed at those most at risk of victimization.
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