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Financial and Online Fraud: Experience and Knowledge Among Connecticut Adults Age 18 and Older

While many Connecticut adults engage in financial investing either through an employer retirement savings plan or on their own through stocks, bonds, mutual funds, etc., few view themselves as very knowledgeable about financial investing.  Moreover, among those who have investments and have ever bought or sold securities, just over half have utilized the services of a financial professional while nearly six in ten opted to invest directly themselves or let their retirement plan manage their investments.  Not feeling knowledgeable about financial investing and not seeking the guidance of a professional can make some investors vulnerable to poor portfolio choices as well as to deceitful or fraudulent investment opportunities.  Even though many respondents utilized the services of a financial professional, 55 percent of them say they have not ever checked to see if that professional was registered with a national securities regulator or if they broke any laws. 

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Connecticut adults are concerned about being part of a fraudulent investment.  Findings from this survey clearly indicate tremendous opportunity for state and local organizations or relevant agencies or individuals to provide greater information about safe investing.  Information and resources around what to look for in legitimate and illegal or fraudulent securities products or services, how to check the backgrounds of financial professionals, where to turn for help or report a problem about a financial product or service or salesperson would likely be valued and utilized.

Identity theft is another area of great concern to Connecticut adults – most are concerned about providing personal information over the Internet and most are concerned about being scammed over the Internet.  Given that the majority of households in the state include a computer and high speed Internet, and most households include wireless phones, exposure to online scams and access to personal information by strangers is likely to increase.  Some are increasing their vulnerability by:

  1. Opening email from people they don’t know, clicking on pop-up ads, signing up for free trial offers, etc.
  2. Agreeing to privacy statements and terms of agreement statements that they did not read thoroughly or completely.
  3. At least a third of all Connecticut adult Internet users incorrectly answered or was not sure of the correct answer to each statement.  In fact, at least half incorrectly answered five of the eight statements tested in the survey.
  4. Most adult Internet users are not checking their free credit reports or accessing their credit accounts with the major credit bureaus.

This survey was conducted by Alan Newman Research (ANR) for AARP in May 8 through May 14, 2015 among the general population in Connecticut concerning financial investment behavior and fraud and online fraud and Internet safety. ANR completed 822 interviews (649 by landline and 173 by cell phone). Respondents were screened for being aged 18 or older and residing permanently in Connecticut. All data have been weighted by age and gender according to 2013 Census estimates from the American Community Survey (ACS).  For more information contact Jennifer Sauer at JSauer@aarp.org.