Some people get more phishing emails than others — here's why

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If you've ever wondered why your parents or grandparents may seem like they're constantly inundated with scam and phishing emails, new research might give some insight.

According to Google and Stanford University, researchers who analyzed more than 1 billion phishing and malware emails found that certain demographics and localities were the primary targets.

Phishing is when cybercriminals target people through email, telephone, or text messages in an attempt to "phish" out personal information, such as credit cards or Social Security numbers

In other scams, an email or instant message might promise a new iPad upon completing a survey, after which shipping and handling might need to be paid through a credit card. Something like this is obviously a scam.

Google and Stanford University found that individuals who have had their email accounts leaked to the internet after a data breach saw phishing attempts increase dramatically.

By volume, U.S. residents are hit with the largest amount of phishing emails, accounting for 42% of all attacks. The U.K. came second, with one in 10 being targeted. Japan came third with one in 20. Oddly, Australia saw the highest number of attacks per capita. 

English is still the language of choice for phishing schemes. Even then, criminals do localize their efforts. In Japan, 78% of emails were in Japanese, and in Brazil, 66% came in Portuguese. 

Age also plays a factor. Persons between 55-64 years of age were 1.64 times more likely to be hit with an attack when compared to the 18-24 demographic.

Mobile-only users had lower odds of being targeted, 20% less than multi-device users. According to Google and Stanford, this could stem from socioeconomic factors with phishers targeting those who they perceive to be more affluent. 

Google claims its Gmail service prevents 99% of phishing attempts from ever reaching its users. Still, cybercriminals are constantly finding new ways to get around Google's protections, meaning it's up to individuals to be that last layer of defense. 

Google recommends users use the Security Checkup function to see if their Google account has any vulnerabilities.

Imad Khan

Imad is currently Senior Google and Internet Culture reporter for CNET, but until recently was News Editor at Tom's Guide. Hailing from Texas, Imad started his journalism career in 2013 and has amassed bylines with the New York Times, the Washington Post, ESPN, Wired and Men's Health Magazine, among others. Outside of work, you can find him sitting blankly in front of a Word document trying desperately to write the first pages of a new book.