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Abstract

By successfully exploiting human vulnerabilities, fake websites have emerged as a major source of online fraud. Fake websites continue to inflict exorbitant monetary losses and also have significant ramifications for online security. We explore the process by which salient performance-related elements could increase the reliance on protective tools and, thus, reduce the success rate of fake websites. We develop the theory of detection tool impact (DTI) for this investigation by borrowing and contextualizing the protection motivation theory. Based on the DTI theory, we conceptualize a model to investigate how salient performance and cost-related elements of detection tools could influence users’ perceptions of the tools and threats, efficacy in dealing with threats, and reliance on such tools. The research method was a controlled lab experiment with a novel and extensive experimental design and protocol in two distinct domains: online pharmacies and banks. We found that the detector accuracy and speed, reflecting in response efficacy as perceived by users, form the pivotal coping mechanism in dealing with security threats and are major conduits for transforming salient performance-related elements into increased reliance on the detector. Furthermore, reported reliance on the detector showed a significant impact on the users’ performance in terms of self-protection. Therefore, users’ perceived response efficacy should be used as a critical metric to evaluate the design, assess the performance, and promote the use of fake-website detectors. We also found that cost of detector error had profound impacts on threat perceptions. We discuss the significant theoretical and empirical implications of the findings.

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