Low Self-Control, Routine Activities, and Fraud Victimization

Authors: Kristy Holtfreter, Michael D. Reisig (Florida State University) & Travis C. Pratt (Washington State University)

Publication: Criminology

Year: 2008

Focus Area: Profile

Relevance: Which factors put people at risk for fraud remain largely unknown.  Previous attempts to identify the demographic profiles of common victims have had limited success.  This article instead examines behavioral characteristics that increase people’s risk of financial fraud.

Summary: One of the first theoretical analyses of fraud targeting and victimization, this article explores what puts people at risk for fraud targeting and victimization by examining specific routine financial activities and financial self-control.

  • Remote-purchasing (e.g., mail-order, online) significantly increases consumers’ risk of being targeted.  One additional form of remote-purchasing behavior (phone sales, infomercials, etc.) translates into a 61% increase in the odds of being targeted.
  • Low levels of self-control increase the likelihood of victimization once targeted.  An increase of one additional marker of low self-control on the evaluation scale increased the odds of succumbing to a fraudulent ploy by 302%.

This study uses data from a random Florida telephone survey conducted in 2004-2005, interviewing over 1,000 adults (922 complete responses).

For further research on enhancing individuals’ financial self-control, see: Hay and Forrest, 2006; Mitchell and MacKenzie, 2006; Muraven, Pogarsky, and Shmueli, 2006

Author Abstract: Recent research has used both routine activity/lifestyle frameworks and self-control theory to explain victimization. Thus far, combined tests of these theories have focused on offending populations and street crime victimization. Whether these frameworks also explain exposure to and likelihood of nonviolent victimization (e.g., fraud) in general population samples remains an open empirical question. Building on prior work, we assess the independent effects of routine consumer activities (i.e., remote purchasing) and low self-control on the likelihood of fraud targeting and victimization. Using a representative sample of 922 adults from a statewide survey in Florida, the results confirm our expectation that remote-purchasing activities increase consumers’ risk of being targeted for fraud. Low self-control has no effect on whether consumers are targeted, but it does significantly increase the likelihood of fraud victimization.

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