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AARP study: Most NH Internet users report at least one fraudulent email in their inbox

New Hampshire Union Leader

March 05. 2014 8:18PM

MANCHESTER — More than three-quarters of New Hampshire adults surveyed who used the Internet received at least one online fraud offer last year, according to survey results released Wednesday.

That translates to as many as 676,830 Granite State adults, according to an AARP survey.

“That’s a big number for a small state like New Hampshire,” said Jamie Bulen, AARP associate state director for communications.

Nine in 10 people surveyed said they were at least somewhat concerned with providing personal information over the Internet, while about four in five were at least somewhat concerned about being scammed.

Dick Chevrefils, 67, of Concord, suspects he was a victim of online identity theft.

The 35-year veteran of state government tried in 2010 to file his tax returns online and the system wouldn’t accept it. The Internal Revenue Service suggested someone might have transposed a number, so the IRS recommended he file a paper return.

He wasn’t expecting a refund, so he thought nothing of it until he tried to file again in 2011 and couldn’t get into the system.

“I followed up with the IRS again and they had advised me that I already filed my income tax and had been awarded a refund,” said Chevrefils, volunteer state president for AARP.

The IRS later told him that he owed additional money for his 2010 income taxes because a $5,000 loan had been forgiven. Problem is Chevrefils never took out a loan and suspects the person who stole his Social Security number forged a refund in 2010 and then got an advance loan on that anticipated refund.

Chevrefils arranged credit fraud monitoring and received a PIN number from the IRS to file future returns.

“We don’t ever think we’re going to be victims of anything,” he said. “We’re not going to be a victim of fraudulent activity. We’re not going to be a victim of ID theft. I took as many precautions as most people and still was a victim of ID theft.”

The AARP Fraud Watch Network, which is free to join, provides email alerts that provide scam information, prevention tips and phone numbers for fraud victims to talk with volunteers.

The AARP survey showed 79 percent of those surveyed use the Internet or email several times a day, and that New Hampshire Internet users performed poorly on online literacy tests, averaging only five of 10 questions correctly.

Results showed 47 percent were unaware that a privacy policy doesn’t always mean the website will not share information with other companies, and 36 percent didn’t know that banks don’t send emails to their customers asking them to click on links to verify personal information.

The survey of 818 Granite Staters had a margin of error of 3.1 percent.

The survey showed about one in five people never change their online passwords.

“That’s pretty scary,” Bulen said. “I think we all can relate to that on some of our accounts.”

Chevrefils said he changes his passwords for various websites every three to six months.

“You define your passwords, so they’re fairly complicated, and you have the challenge of remembering it yourself,” he said.

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