WI22-10: Enhancing Trust in the Social Security Administration and E-Government among People Targeted by Fraud



One of the insidious effects of government imposter scams is the potential erosion of trust among those who are targeted – fraud targets may learn to distrust communications and people who claim to be from the Social Security Administration (SSA) or other federal agencies. This interferes with the necessary and beneficial work of the SSA and, more broadly, of the US government. This study analyzes how individuals targeted by government imposter scams respond to communications from the SSA and how the SSA can reinforce public trust and willingness to engage. Specifically, the team developed an application to teach individuals how to identify legitimate communications from the SSA, other government bodies, and retail companies. Multiple national samples of Americans, in which some participants were prior victims of scams, were then assigned in randomized trials and tested on their ability to distinguish between real and fraudulent communications. We find nearly universal exposure to fraud attempts in the national samples, low prevalence of paying money to fraud perpetrators in response to those attempts, and a set of personal characteristics that appear to predict low trust in the SSA and other institutions. We also find evidence that interactive online training can help people both trust real communications and identify scams. The impact of the training is more pronounced for emails than for websites, and for government communications than for business communications from companies such as Amazon. A non-interactive training that provides static tips on detecting fraud provides a lesser but still significant effect.


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WI22-10: Enhancing Trust in the Social Security Administration and E-Government Among People Targeted by Fraud

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