Academic journal article International Journal of Cyber Criminology

Cybercrime Victimization: An Examination of Individual and Situational Level Factors

Academic journal article International Journal of Cyber Criminology

Cybercrime Victimization: An Examination of Individual and Situational Level Factors

Article excerpt

Introduction

Over the past two decades, cybercrime has emerged as a salient area of inquiry for criminologists and a growing concern for public policy. Although there are many definitions of cybercrime, the term generally refers to crimes committed through the use of computers and computer networks, but it also includes crimes that do not rely heavily on computers (Britz, 2008). Extant research has explored the nature and extent of cybercrime (Cukier & Levin, 2009; Finley, 2009; Finn, 2004; Geis et al., 2009; Huang et al., 2009; Jaishankar, Halder, & Ramdoss, 2009; Ponte, 2009; Stroik & Huang, 2009), correlates of offending and victimization (Berg, 2009; Bossler & Holt, 2010; Buzzell et al., 2006; Choi, 2008; Higgins, 2005; 2006; Higgins, Fell & Wilson, 2007; Higgins & Makin, 2004; Higgins, Wolfe & Marcum, 2008; Holt & Bossler, 2009; Marcum, 2008; Skinner & Fream, 1997; Turgeman-Goldschmidt, 2009) and issues relating to investigating and prosecuting this type of crime (Roberson, 2009; Hinduja, 2009; Shoemaker & Kennedy, 2009). In spite of the considerable and growing scholarship on cybercrime, however, few studies have examined the theoretical causes and correlates of cybercrime victimization.

To date, there have been five studies that applied the lifestyles/routine activities perspective (Cohen & Felson, 1979; Hindelang, Gottfredson & Garafalo; 1978) and the general theory of crime (Gottfredson & Hirschi, 1990) to account for cybercrime victimization (Ashalan, 2006; Bossler & Holt, 2010; Choi, 2008; Holt & Bossler, 2009; Marcum, 2008). Overall, the findings generated from these studies underscore the importance of both situational and individual factors in understanding online victimization. However, whether both individual and situational factors predict all types of cybercrime victimization equally remains elusive. For instance, there is evidence that low self-control is a significant predictor of person-based cybercrime victimization (i.e., offenses where a specific person was the target) but not computer-based cybercrime victimization (i.e., offenses where computers and not the individuals were the targets; see Bossler & Holt, 2010). While the expectation would be that criminological theories such as the general theory of crime, routine activities, rational choice, and different versions of social control theory should be able to explain different types of crimes and different subtypes of cybercrimes equally because they claim to be general theories, our empirical knowledge on this matter is rather meager. Hence, assessing the role that individual and situational factors play in certain forms of cybercrime victimization will be pertinent not only to the development of a theoretical framework on cybercrime victimization but also on the advancement of the victimology scholarship and providing information for specific public policies.

To that end, the current study explores the effects of individual and situational factors on seven forms of cybercrime: computer virus, unwanted exposure to pornographic materials, sex solicitation, online harassment by a stranger, online harassment by a nonstranger, phishing and online defamation.3 In particular, this study applies the general theory of crime (Gottfredson & Hirschi, 1990) and the lifestyles/routine activities perspective (Cohen & Felson, 1979; Hindelang, Gottfredson & Garofalo, 1978) to determine if low levels of self-control, and exposure to motivated offenders, online risky behaviors and activities, and capable guardianship affect the above seven forms of cybercrime crime similarly. In the following sections, we first review the lifestyles/routine activities perspective and the general theory of crime. We also discuss the empirical evidence among exposure to motivated offenders, online risky behaviors and activities, capable guardianship, low levels of self-control and cybercrime victimization. …

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