Findings from a Pilot Study to Measure Financial Fraud in the United States

A collaboration between the Stanford Center on Longevity and the FINRA Investor Education Foundation


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This pilot survey was based on our report published in 2015 — A Framework for a Taxonomy of Fraud — that defines and categorizes the many subtypes of fraud targeting individuals. Using an online sample of 2,000 US adults, data was collected on the frequency and type of fraud victimization in the past year, the amount of the loss, fraud solicitation and transaction methods, perpetrator characteristics, reporting behaviors, and the emotional and financial impact of victimization.

Key findings from the pilot test were:

  • Half of the survey respondents reported victimization by one or more of the seven major categories of fraud in the past year.
  • Consumer products and services fraud was reported with the highest frequency — nearly 43% of the sample reported experiencing one or more of these types of scams.
  • On average, fraud victims in the sample were nine years younger than respondents who did not report fraud — 40.9 years old compared to 49.7 years old — and the majority of victims were male.
  • The most common method of fraud solicitation was through the Internet (30%), and the most common method of payment was by credit card (32%). The FTC (2013) also found that one-third of self-report victims were solicited online (33%), but more than 56% paid by credit card.
  • While 46% of the sample reported losses between $1 and $99, 30% of fraud victims reported losses between $100 and $499, and 21% reported losses of $500 or more.
  • The majority of victims (52%) believe they were intentionally scammed or defrauded by the person or organization that took their money.
  • As a direct result of fraud victimization, 35% reported that it was hard or somewhat hard for them to meet their monthly expenses or pay their bills.
  • Only 14% of victims reported the incident to local law enforcement or a federal or state reporting agency.
  • The consumer financial fraud survey is being revised for inclusion as a module in the National Crime Victimization Survey managed by the Bureau of Justice Statistics. This module will enter the field for six months in 2017 and be administered to nearly 90,000 people age 18 years and older.