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The University of Southampton
Web Science Institute

Identifying on-line fraud: The case of fake websites


According to the Office of National Statistics, internet shopping represents about 20% of total retail sales, contributing around £100bn into the UK economy in 2009. At the same time, the rate of cybercrime has risen drastically, costing UK online retailers and consumers an estimated £251 million per year. Furthermore, despite only representing 1% of the world population, the UK accounts for 2% of the global cybercrime victims.

Fake websites, representing one of the most common cybercrimes, refers to cases where scammers utilize the names of well-known brands and agencies (e.g., Zara, HM Revenue & Customs) to generate malicious and fake websites. It is of little wonder that computer scientists have tried tackling this issue, mainly by developing mechanisms that offer early detection (e.g., Crawford, et al., 2015).

Despite their important efforts, the rate of victimhood has been rising. Moreover, as internet use is increasing across the lifespan (from early childhood to late adulthood), there is a growing need to better understand whether and how age and associated cognitive abilities impact consumers’ ability to detect and avoid fake websites. Furthermore, there is evidence that demographic variables, such as age (e.g., 18 vs 74), are linked to using different websites and divergent interests (e.g., sport vs. health). Thus, in addition to examining individual differences, there is a need to include a diverse set of websites that will cater and will be familiarized to different demographic segments. Taken together, the proposal has three specific aims:

  1. Examine psychological differences that can help explain consumers’ response to fake vs. real websites.
  2. Evaluate how the information presented on different types of websites (medical, banking, clothing, entertainment) impact participants’ likelihood of identifying real vs. fake websites.
  3. Use eye-tracking technologies to gain insight on how people process information from both fake and real websites



Principal Investigator: Dr Yaniv Hanoch

Co Investigator: Dr Nicholas Kelly


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