Financial Fraud among Older Americans: Evidence and Implications
NBER Working Paper No. 24803
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. Our project analyzes a module we developed and fielded in the 2016 Health and Retirement Study (HRS). Using this dataset, we evaluate the incidence and risk factors for investment fraud, prize/lottery scams, and account misuse, using regression analysis. Relatively few HRS respondents mentioned any single form of fraud over the prior five years, but nearly 5% reported at least one form of investment fraud, 4 % recounted prize/lottery fraud, and 30% indicated that others had used/attempted to use their accounts without permission. There were few risk factors consistently associated with such victimization in the older population. Fraud is a complex phenomenon and no single factor uniquely predicts victimization. The incidence of fraud could be reduced by educating consumers about various types of fraud and by increasing awareness among financial service professionals.
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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w24803