People's moods and financial situations can make them more likely to fall for online scams, according to results of a survey about Internet safety from AARP.
The survey identified 15 "key risk behaviors" that make people more susceptible to fraud, from clicking on pop-up ads to opening email from unfamiliar sources.
According to AARP's Doug Shadel, people are even more likely to make bad choices online when they feel isolated or are under financial stress.
"I liken it to the idea of catching a cold. Germs are everywhere, right? Well, it's the same with scams. Scams are all over the Internet: some people fall for 'em, some people don't," Shadel said. "We think that these negative life experiences can weaken your immune system, in effect, and that's what makes you vulnerable."
The Federal Trade Commission says scams that start online now make up nearly 40 percent of the fraud complaints it receives. And they're some of the toughest to prosecute, because the perpetrators often are in other countries.
The AARP survey also revealed that even scam-savvy Internet users don't take enough precautions to protect themselves from fraud.
Shadel said the survey posed ten simple questions about online safety, and most respondents didn't get the answers right for half of them.
"We found that something like one third of the people we surveyed had never changed their password on, like, their online banking accounts or their personal emails," he said. "And so, there's some just common-sense things people need to do to stay safe online."
You can sign up at www.aarp.org for the "Fraud Watch Network" where you can share information and issue alerts about scams as they show up.