London, March 17 : A report on e-mail scams reveals that high-achieving professionals like doctors, architects, engineers, etc. are frequently defrauded by e-mail bluff masters who lure them into contributing to fake ventures after taking their details from conference web sites.
The finding, based on a research conducted by IT fraud agency Ultrascan in the Netherlands, is quite contrary to the widely held belief that the poorly educated and financially desperate are most vulnerable.
The research also showed an association between white-collar victims and a life-threatening family trauma, which appeared to have impaired their judgment.
During the study, the researchers reviewed 362 of the most serious cases wherein victims had lost more than 150,000 pounds. They found that 85 per cent of such people had suffered a parent-related trauma, either death or an acrimonious separation.
In their study report, the researchers wrote that people who had suffered a loss seemed to be more likely to be duped.
The report also revealed that advance-fee fraud, where the victim is asked to pay up before receiving benefits, was the most successful type of scam in the world, and was responsible for victims losing an estimated 2.1 billion pounds last year.
As compared to 2006, there were 300,000 fraudsters active globally last year.
Ultrascan researchers said that poorly educated or financially inexperienced people were not so desirable to scammers because they did not trust their own judgment, and soon realised that they had been duped.
Doctors were especially vulnerable to scams that encouraged them to do good, said the agency.
"They very often fall for a scam that starts with a request to help the less fortunate in the world through good causes. To do the bigger scams you need the victims to trust their own capabilities and experience," Times Online quoted Frank Engelsman, Ultrascan's specialist in advance-fee fraud, as saying.
"The 308 victims who said they had suffered child-parent trauma included two police commissioners of large cities, respected entrepreneurs and 17 directors of companies listed on stock exchanges," he said.
He also revealed that scammers boasted to one another on internet forums about the educational calibre of their victims.