WI21-03: Assessing Vulnerability to Social Security Scams



Over the last few years, Social Security scams have become one of the most common forms of government imposter fraud (Fletcher 2019; AARP 2019). This study will develop and test an intervention to combat Social Security scams by training individuals to discriminate between scams and sincere appeals. The effectiveness of the interventions will be tested in a randomized controlled trial on a nationally representative sample of Americans. The study will employ an interactive online tool to accomplish this—a customized version of the open-source phishing security platform, Gophish, usually used to test organizational networks for security holes. The platform sends scam emails and directs participants to spoofed webpages that seek to capture their personal information. The study’s primary outcome of interest is participants’ ability to correctly distinguish scam from non-scam appeals, relative to a control group. Secondary outcome variables include level of comfort online and factual knowledge about scams.


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