Investigating Vulnerability and Reporting Behavior for Consumer Fraud Victimization : Opportunity as a Social Aspect of Age

Authors: Judy Van Wyk (University of Rhode Island) & Karen A. Mason (Washington State University)

Publication: Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice

Year: 2001

Focus Area: Profile, Aging, Decision-making

Relevance: Successfully arming people against fraud victimization requires understanding not only who is victimized, but why they are vulnerable.

Summary: This study analyzes the connection between fraud victimization, age, social activity, and risk-taking.

  • Younger adults are known to be more vulnerable to fraud than older adults: there is a 77% chance of being victimized between the ages of 18 and 24, and only a 44% chance for those between 65 and 74 (Van Wyk & Benson, 1997).
  • The authors investigate whether this is due to greater socialization and risk-taking at a younger age.
  • While both socialization and risk-taken strongly correlate to fraud victimization, they do not predict vulnerability more accurately than age.  This suggests that other aspects of youth aside from social engagement and risk-taking contribute to younger adults’ vulnerability.
  • Neither fraud victims’ social involvement nor their tendency to take risks affect their likelihood to report fraud.

In conclusion, being younger is a more reliable predictor of being a fraud victim than greater social involvement or a tendency to take greater financial risks.  While these two elements may partly explain younger adults’ vulnerability, additional factors still need to be investigated.

Data for this study was collected via a 1994 random telephone survey in Knox County, Tennessee, which correlates with other, similar studies (Titus et al. 1995, Boyle 1992).

Author Abstract: This study investigates vulnerability and reporting behavior for victimization by consumer fraud. Because socialization may increase the amount of contacts with others, contributing to greater opportunities for victimization, we predict that people who socialize more often may increase their likelihood of victimization.  Greater levels of socialization are also predicted to increase the likelihood of official reporting behavior for consumer fraud victimization because victims may depend on others for guidance in official reporting. The authors found support for the first prediction, but not the second. Although socialization does increase the likelihood of victimization, the authors found it to have no effect on official reporting behavior. These findings shed some light on the disparity between self-reports and official reports of victimization by consumer fraud.

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