Financial Fraud among Older Americans: Evidence and Implications
Forthcoming in the Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences
Objectives: The consequences of poor financial capability at older ages are serious and include making mistakes with credit, spending retirement assets too quickly, and being defrauded by financial predators. Because older persons are at or past the peak of their wealth accumulation, they are often the targets of fraud.
Methods: Our project analyzes a module we developed and fielded on persons age 50+ in the 2016 Health and Retirement Study (HRS). Using this dataset, we evaluated the incidence and prospective risk factors (measured in 2010) for investment fraud and prize/lottery fraud using logistic regression (N=1,220).
Results: Relatively few HRS respondents mentioned any single form of fraud over the prior five years, but 5.0% reported at least one form of investment fraud and 4.4% recounted prize/lottery fraud. Greater wealth (non-housing) was associated with investment fraud, whereas lower housing wealth and symptoms of depression were associated with prize/lottery fraud. Hispanics were significantly less likely to report either type of fraud. Other suspected risk factors—low social integration and financial literacy—were not significant.
Discussion: Fraud is a complex phenomenon and no single factor uniquely predicts victimization across different types, even within the category of investment fraud. Prevention programs should educate consumers about various types of fraud and increase awareness among financial services professionals.