Is This Phishing? Older Age Is Associated With Greater Difficulty Discriminating Between Safe and Malicious Emails

Matthew D. Grilli, Katelyn S. McVeigh, Ziad M. Hakim, Aubrey A. Wank, Sarah J. Getz, Bonnie E. Levin, Natalie C. Ebner, Robert C. Wilson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations

Abstract

OBJECTIVES: As our social worlds become increasingly digitally connected, so too has concern about older adults falling victim to "phishing" emails, which attempt to deceive a person into identity theft and fraud. In the present study, we investigated whether older age is associated with differences in perceived suspiciousness of phishing emails. METHODS: Sixty-five cognitively normal middle-aged to older adults rated a series of genuine and phishing emails on a scale from definitely safe to definitely suspicious. RESULTS: Although older age was not related to a shift in overall perception of email safety, older age was related to worse discrimination between genuine and phishing emails, according to perceived suspiciousness. DISCUSSION: These findings suggest that cognitively normal older adults may be at particular risk for online fraud because of an age-associated reduction in their sensitivity to the credibility of emails.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1711-1715
Number of pages5
JournalThe journals of gerontology. Series B, Psychological sciences and social sciences
Volume76
Issue number9
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 30 2021

Keywords

  • Aging
  • Cybersecurity
  • Decision making
  • Online scams

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies

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